“The worst day of my life started with a dream. I went to bed 14 weeks pregnant on a Wednesday night and woke up in a panic. I had just had a dream that shook me to my core. In it, I was in the NICU, and there was a sweet little baby. After an uphill infertility battle, I had started this pregnancy with a miracle set of identical twins and I instincitvely knew even while asleep that he was one of mine. There was only one of them though. He was in a warmer and covered with all kinds of wires and tubes. In the dream, he quickly told me he would meet me again in a healthier body. That was it.
I woke up and shook my husband Scott. We both agreed if anything, it was just the baby’s twin, our baby B that we had lost at 9 weeks. Perhaps he was saying goodbye. Not even for a second did I even think it could mean anything worse. We both went back to sleep thinking that maybe we had gotten some closure from our sweet angel twin. I now believe this was the moment my baby A’s heart stopped beating.
Thursday, December 6 started out like any other normal day. Scott had to go take some testing for work, and I had a regular 14 week check up with my OBGYN. It was supposed to be quick, in and out in 10 minutes. I had decided to bring our 3-year-old, Owen with us since I had worn my babysitters out by that point with all the appointments we have had. Nothing could go wrong, right? We were snugly in the second trimester, we were in the ‘safe zone.’
Scott was running late coming back from his testing. I found myself getting annoyed, and told him to just meet me back at home. He insisted on coming, he promised me from the beginning that I wouldn’t have to do any of this alone and it’s one he intended on keeping. Thank God he came, I would not have been able to handle that appointment by myself. By a stroke of luck the office was running behind so he made it just as they were calling me back.
My favorite doctor and I chatted about a birth plan, my genetic screening test that hadn’t come back yet and our results from our previous NT ultrasound (which were great). She busted out the doppler, and after checking for a few minutes, couldn’t locate the heartbeat. It was the first time they had used the doppler on me in office, she wasn’t nervous and I figured it was just a little too early. She said we could go check on ultrasound, and I was actually a little excited that I could see the baby. I wasn’t afraid at all. I had just heard the heartbeat the night before. There was no reason to worry.
She put me back on the chair and stuck the wand on my belly. Scott and Owen were talking and Owen was excited to check up on our little peanut.
Immediately after the screen lit up, I had this sinking feeling that something just wasnt right. The baby was so still. He wasn’t moving at all. Normally he’s bouncing off the walls and you can’t get him to sit still. I thought he was maybe sleeping. I searched and searched for a heartbeat, straining my eyes and not believing my own vision for a moment. I couldn’t see the flickering.
This must be a sick joke. Babies don’t just die overnight in the second trimester for no reason. He was healthy just a week ago. She checked and checked and triple checked. She checked for blood flow. Nothing. There was nothing. I caught it before she could breathe the words, mustered all my strength, and calmly asked Scott to take Owen to the waiting room before she said the words ‘I’m so sorry’ and my world shattered into pieces.
She apologized over and over again, as if this was her fault. It was no ones fault. It wasn’t my fault, she said. Sometimes terrible things just happen. It was probably a chromosomal abnormality, or the fact there was a demised twin in utero that hadn’t absorbed fully. It could have been a million things.
She sent in a nurse who immediately opened up her arms to hold me. With my husband and son in the waiting room this was my first bit of human contact since the news. I ugly cried on her shoulder and she held onto me like she was afraid I’d melt into a puddle if she let go. She set up a D+C procedure for me at the hospital and gave me instructions and a thousand ‘I’m sorrys’
After she left I had to talk myself into being strong. My son was in the waiting room and he needed my strength. He needed to feel safe, and the only way I could give that to him was to hold myself together for just a few more moments. For him, I did.
We walked silently through the parking lot. Scott put Owen in the carseat and closed the door. I melted into the puddle the nurse had expected just moments before.
‘The baby is dead.’
He grabbed me. He held me up as my body threatened to give out on me. We cried. I sobbed. Loudly. Unabashedly. In the middle of the parking lot, as people walked into doctors appointments and back from lunch breaks and passed by us, probably glad tragedy had chosen not to befall them that day.
I climbed into the car, after driving for a time, a little voice piped up.
‘Momma, your baby died?’
Cue my heart sinking into the earth. Bury me now. How do I explain this to my son? How.
‘Yes sweetheart. I’m so sorry. Our baby has died.’
‘He was very sick. He is with Jesus now. God is holding him and rocking him. He is warm and loved and cared for. He is safe with God and he is being taken care of for us.’
‘But momma, I wanted him to grow.’
Hearing my child cry, hearing his tiny baby grief as he cried and didn’t understand broke every last strand of strength I was clinging to. I cried, silently in the front seat the whole way home as Scott clenched my hand as if trying to hold my broken pieces together.
We told our families, and spread the news on social media so that I wouldn’t have to individually message as many people. After Owen went to sleep that night we took turns holding one another and letting ourselves fall apart. We talked about how unfair it was to lose both. How badly wanted this baby was. How we wanted to turn back the clock. How we had JUST finally let ourselves believe this baby would make it.
I was up all night tossing and turning about the D+C procedure. I could not outrun the nightmares of how the process would desecrate my poor baby’s body, and how I didn’t think my mental health would survive being put to sleep pregnant and waking up without a baby inside of me. It didn’t feel right for me. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was making the wrong choice. My guilt was consuming me. I couldn’t keep this baby safe and growing inside of me. But I loved him. So much it physically hurt. I wanted to honor him in any way I could.
The next morning I spoke with my doctor. She told me she had forgotten to mention that because there were 2 babies still inside me, that the D+C procedure could muddle the DNA and it was possible we wouldn’t get answers to our genetic testing. This just wasn’t okay with me. I needed answers and closure. The only way I would get that is if the babies came to earth intact. I would have to birth them. I was too far along for it to be safe to do this at home, so I would be sent to the hospital to be induced on the labor and delivery unit. The soonest they could fit me in was Sunday morning.
We made arrangements for Owen to spend time with my grandma and my sister. He was excited to see his cousin. My mom volunteered to help see us through this experience. Having birthed 5 babies she was the natural choice. I was worried about Scott and felt that he needed someone there to help support him as well. He was worried about me and wanted to be sure I had someone there with me 24/7 through the process too. The three of us were in it together.
That morning, we felt like cattle in the holding cell of a slaughter house. We went to breakfast and had the saddest meal of our lives. We both cried silent tears that dripped into pancakes and mixed into maple syrup. We held hands in the car with death grips, as if we were afraid of crumbling if we let go of one another.
I could hardly will my feet to move as we approached the hospital. If I didn’t go in…if I didn’t acknowledge this had happened, if I just kept him inside of me, tomorrow I would wake up and this nightmare would be over. But I couldn’t do that.
They placed the IV and the first round of medication. My nurse, Allison, was an angel and walked me through every step of the process. She never got annoyed at my questions. She cried with me. Held my hand. Reassured me she would do everything within her power to help me do this MY way. She promised me footprints and photographs of my baby. She was the first step towards regaining my sense of power back, I will never be able to thank her enough for what she did for me.
After she left, the parade of people began. Social workers and grief counselors and the hospital chaplain and program directors. They brought teddy bears and angel wing pins and group therapy schedules and prayer. They were all so very kind but it was weighing on me to keep talking about how sad this was. Each time they left the whole room was in tears.
It was a lot of waiting without my body doing much of anything. My body didn’t want to give up my baby just as much as my heart didn’t. Scott had started getting anxious and overheating. I was worried a few times that he may pass out, and I tried to create simple tasks that I ‘needed’ to help get him out and walking around in the fresh air, because he refused to leave my side otherwise. The room was suffocating with grief and the promise of pain.
While he was gone my mom climbed into my hospital bed. 3 generations of love. Her, me, and the tiny humans in between us as we held onto each other and cried and felt our loss.
10 more hours of waiting, 2 more rounds of medication, and I finally began to feel contractions. They were small at first. Tiny blips of pain that came and went. Scott held my hand while my mom gave me tips on how to survive them. I contemplated pain management but I couldn’t escape the need to truly feel this. All of it. To go THROUGH it. To honor my babies, the tiny people that never got to experience life outside my body. I needed to feel it physically as well as emotionally.
The contractions began to climb in intensity. Slowly, slowly, more pain. Scott turned off the light and crawled into my hospital bed and pulled me onto his chest and cradled me. With every contraction he told me to squeeze him. I would claw at his back and hold him tightly as each wave took over. He rubbed my arms and told me how proud he was of me, and how much he loved me. Shortly afterwords my water broke.
I started shaking and became very scared all of a sudden. I was afraid to meet my babies. I was afraid to have to say hello and goodbye in the same breath. I was afraid of what they would look like. I was afraid of all my inadequacies.
Things happened very quickly. My nurse rushed me pain meds in my iv. I felt them trickle up my neck and take away some of the anxiety I was having. I fought the sleepiness and remained aware. I was grateful the pain of the contractions had stopped. It would have been hard to navigate the emotional pain and the physical pain at the same time during this. I felt pressure. The nurse checked me and told me it was time. Scott held my hand, I gave one solid push, and he was out.
There’s nothing that ever prepares you 100% to push out a baby and hear silence. Even when you know that baby has passed away, and is too small to cry.
My nurse scooped him up and placed him in the warmer.
Chaos ensued at that point. My body was not expelling the placenta. It was as if it was saying, ‘I have given you what you asked me for, although I did not want to. I have nothing left to give.’
My cervix closed up like a sieve and I stopped contracting. My doctor yelled to push pitocin. At that point our other tiny baby that had passed at 9 weeks gestation was born. We were all shocked when the nurse said he was perfectly intact.
This entire time I was crying. I just wanted to see my baby. I knew I was heading towards having to have surgery so I wouldn’t bleed to death. But I didn’t want to go before I met him. I kept pleading for just 5 minutes. 5 minutes alone with my husband and our child before I was taken away and put to sleep.
She handed him to me, wrapped in cloth and a small papoose.
He was tiny. So, so, so unimaginably tiny. But so human. With small little feet where you could count every single toe. He had big hands and 10 lovely fingers. His eyes were large and round, and his legs were long. He was fragile. And absolutely perfectly formed. Created in our image by a being who loves us beyond measure. I loved him, so much. My tiny love, my sweetheart.
I placed him in my husband’s arms as they prepared to wheel me off to surgery and watched as it broke him as well. He and my mother held him the entire time I was in the operating room.
I came back groggy and exhausted. Scott and I spent more time with him together and then we begrudgingly gave him to a nurse so they could take pictures of him while we got a few hours of sleep. My mom slipped out to head back home.
When we woke up the first thing we did was go and grab him. Scott climbed up next to me and we looked at him in wonder. The nurses had cleaned him off and had placed his little arms across his chest and his legs too. It was such a sweet gesture, and it makes me cry just remembering how peaceful he looked.
We had a few hours with him until finally we both knew it was time to let him go.
We held him one last time. I told him I was sorry my body couldn’t hold him or his twin any longer. That his mom and dad and big brother all loved him so much. That we wished he could have joined our family. That we would meet him in heaven. I hope he was met by his twin and my great grandma with open arms. Scott told him how much he loved him too and quietly said goodbye. He placed him gently back on the warmer. I watched my husband break down sobbing. I will never forget that moment. It is etched in my heart forever.
He called the nurse and then crawled into bed with me. We clung to each other like our lives depended on it. And I suppose in that moment they might have. We cried and let all the agony leave our bodies in the form of tears and heaves. There is nothing in my life that has ever been quite as painful as having to say goodbye like this. It’s been 2 days now since we’ve been home. We’ve cried and laughed and somehow life has had to go back to its routines even though the world has stopped. We do know that we have hope for the future and we will not give up.”
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