“When I was younger, I never really imagined myself being a mom before 40. Honestly, I didn’t know if it was something that was in the cards for me. So, when I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant on March 6, 2011, shocked does not even begin to describe how I felt.
I remember calling my boyfriend (who I had not been dating for long) and telling him, fully expecting him to break up with me because come on, what man stays and has a baby with someone they haven’t known for too long? But the character of that man became immediately evident. He told me, ‘I’m with you through this. I’m not leaving.’ And it was true. He continued to stay throughout a pregnancy that would change our lives forever.
At 10 weeks, 2 days before my first OB appointment, I found myself in the ER, bleeding and cramping. The doctor found nothing wrong and sent us on our way. The next 10 weeks consisted of weekly visits with continued bleeding, but no real concern from the clinic I was attending. As a Medicaid recipient at the time, I was going to the free clinic at the local University hospital, which meant we would be seeing mostly residents instead of our OB. Every time I went in for an appointment or emergency visit, it was a different resident I saw. To this day, I still don’t know who my OB was because I never met her in person.
We trusted the clinic because they were going to make sure everything went right, right? With each emergency visit, I was told of something new I was doing wrong and sent home with new restrictions. When I complained of leaking fluid at 12 weeks, I was told it was just urine. When I complained of back pain at 15 weeks, I was told I was standing too much. When I was sent to the ER by the sonogram technician at our anatomy scan for having really low amniotic fluid at 17 weeks, I was told I wasn’t drinking enough water. When I was passing golf ball sized clots at 19 weeks, I was told this was my fault for exerting myself too much. I was trying to do everything they told me to save this baby I was determined to have.
On July 4, 2011, I went to bed complaining of the back pain that had become unbearable. I didn’t go to the ER because I thought I was just going to be sent home again and be blamed for doing something else wrong. So, I didn’t. The next day, on July 5th, I woke up with more fluid on the bed than ever before and still in pain. I got myself dressed for work, telling my boyfriend that if I still felt like this at lunch, I was going to go back to the clinic.
When I walked into work, I was immediately told to go to the hospital because I looked awful. I drove to the hospital, calling my boyfriend on the way. I told him not to come in unless I called him, but that I would probably be home before lunch.
When I arrived at the ER, I was examined immediately and told that my water had broken. I asked if there was anything they could do, and they said no, ‘If a pregnancy is going to end, there is really nothing that can be done.’ Additionally, we were told that bed rest and IV fluids, which we now know can be given to pregnancies with low fluid in an effort to prolong the pregnancy, usually ‘doesn’t really do anything.’ I was told I had 2 options: have the baby or sign a waiver releasing them of any responsibility should I decide to go to another hospital. I called my boyfriend and asked him to get there immediately. When he arrived we both asked again what our options were. We were told that because my water had broken, there was nothing that could be done. I had to either go through an induction or deny care.
We decided to go through what we now know was a forced abortion. We call it that because that in essence is what it was. At the time, however, we had no clue. After all, we trusted that we were being given sound advice. I was given 2 tablets that were inserted in me and we were left in a room alone as they waited for me to dilate enough. We were told that because we were only 20 weeks along, there was nothing that could be done for the baby if it was born alive, but that most likely it was going to be a still birth.
At 3:43 p.m., I delivered a baby girl. The image seared in my mind is of her little arm stretching into the air. She was alive. ALIVE. Surely, the nurse wasn’t going to let her die, right? Wrong. Our baby was placed in my arms, I was cleaned up, and we were left alone with our baby as the staff waited for her to die. We were visited every 30 minutes for 4 hours to see if she was still alive. At one point, I was told not to hold her too close because my warmth and heart beat would confuse her body into staying alive. We watched our daughter fight to stay alive, but nobody on staff seemed to care. At 7:54 p.m., our dear sweet Natalie passed away in my arms.
The next week was a blur with not much that I can really remember other than the incredible pain I felt in my heart. The feeling of failure I felt with the postpartum bleeding. The anger I felt towards God for giving me this pregnancy, nurturing this desire to be a mother just to take it away from me. The feeling of hopelessness at my empty womb. When we left the hospital, I was given a remembrance box that contains the hat that Natalie wore in the hospital, and some other stuff we were told would be placed in there. It is all I have as a reminder of her.
Ultrasound photos were never offered or given when requested. There were no pictures taken of me during the pregnancy or of her in the hospital. With the intensity of that pregnancy, these things never crossed my mind. And so this remains as the only evidence of Natalie. I still have yet to open that box. I don’t know what opening it would do, but I am scared to find out, and so it stands on our mantle to this day.
July 5th marks 8 years since Natalie passed. Every year, on her birthday, I try to imagine what she would be like, what she would look like, what she would be doing. I can’t say the pain has gone away, but I have learned to move on, and live my life. That amazing boyfriend who stood by my side through that whole pregnancy is now my husband.
Together, we now have a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son, our precious rainbow babies.
My faith in God allows me to believe that I will see Natalie the day I get to Heaven. I can’t wait to hold her, tell her how much I have loved and missed her, and apologize for not fighting for her life more in her short time here on Earth. Until then, we have her amazing siblings who bring absolute joy to our lives and remind us each day why God gave us Natalie. Her precious life and untimely death brought us closer together and allowed us to nurture a home that would welcome her sister and brother into a loving space with parents who will never allow anything bad to happen to them. Her precious life is the reason I fight to keep her memory alive. It allows me to show there is life after the loss of a child. That while the pain never goes away, it does allow for new purpose in your life to grow.
Until the day I meet her again, I will continue to speak her name because while she did die, for 4 short hours she did live. And in those 4 hours, she filled her Mommy and Daddy’s hearts with love we never knew we could feel. And for that, we are forever grateful.”
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