Not this time ....
My husband and I are expecting again. Our second child. We are praying we get to take this one home from the hospital with us. On May 3, 1997 at 37 weeks I gave birth to our son, Charles John (Junior). It was both the most joyous and devastating experience of our lives. Here's our story...
On Monday, April 28th I had a regular, weekly, checkup with my OB. Unfortunately my husband couldn't accompany me this time because it was a work day (usually I went on Saturday appointments). It went fine. Same as usual, everything normal, feeling fine, weight gain good, movements regular, heartbeat strong... This appointment summed up my entire pregnancy - normal (I didn't even have morning sickness). Because I was scheduled for weekly appointments and wanted to get back to my regular Saturday appointment schedule I set my next appointment up for the following Saturday, not quite a full week away - only five days.
The week flew by, between working full-time and the "baby classes" - La Mas - it was Saturday before I knew it. As we drove to the appointment my husband and I were discussing the inevitable impact having a baby was going to have on our lives and our relationship. We were a bit nervous that adding a child to our lives would somehow negatively impact our relationship. We have a very strong marriage and relationship, we rarely quarrel and are extremely compatible in our interests and views. We had been apprehensive about starting a family because we were afraid it may jeopardize our special bond. We had seen many friends and relatives relationships change once they had kids, and not necessarily for the better. We had many lengthy discussions before deciding to start a family and had decided this was something we both really wanted and were willing to make sacrifices to make it work. Our love and bond was so strong we felt sure we could handle anything. Little did we know this would soon be tested.
We arrived on schedule for the OB appointment and the nurse put me through the usual routine tests - urine sample, blood pressure, weight... Then came the good part .... listening to the baby's heartbeat. My husband and I always looked forward to this part. This time was different ... there was no heartbeat. I could tell immediately from the nurses expression that it wasn't just that the baby had moved and it was just difficult to find ... there was none. I began to panic immediately, with my husband trying to calm me, the nurse retrieved my OB and he came in to check again. Still nothing. He moved us to a room with an ultra-sound machine and during my uncontrollable sobbing confirmed that our baby had died. He had us go to the hospital (next door) and he met us there and did another ultrasound on a second machine to just to reconfirm our worst nightmare.
I could not believe what was happening. "I was just here Monday" I kept saying. How could this happen when I didn't even know anything was wrong. "When was the last time I felt the baby move?" I didn't know, I couldn't think straight. "Yesterday, no maybe the day before....oh my God what's happened?" The Dr. said even if I had noticed the lack of movement it was most likely probably too late to have done anything.
Our Dr. explained the next steps that needed to be taken. I would need to deliver and as soon as possible. I asked about a c-section, I thought why not just go in and take it out? The Dr. explained that it was safer for me to deliver normally. I would be given medication to speed the process of labor as well as all the pain medication I wanted...there was no point in my being unnecessarily uncomfortable, blah, blah, blah. Even though I was hearing everything he was saying I still couldn't believe what he was telling me. Even though I wouldn't have a baby to bring home, I still had to deliver it. The day that I had been waiting for for 37 weeks was here and I didn't even want to be a part of it. I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up and have it be over. When the Dr. spoke about the process for after the delivery I again couldn't believe what he was saying. We could spend as much time with our baby as we wanted, they would take pictures for us, give us a birth certificate and footprints... I thought this sounded morbid and I didn't want any part of this, or so I thought.
We were admitted to the hospital and the process began. My husband called his brother to explain what was happening, we had plans to meet them later that day and attend our niece's first communion - obviously we weren't going to make it. We decided we didn't want anyone to come to the hospital to be with us ... this was an extremely personal event and we really couldn't face anyone in our grief.
During the next several hours we contacted some of the family to inform them. Everyone was devastated. My in-laws both live out of state and my mother-in-law immediately made plans to fly to be near us. My husband also contacted my brother's house and spoke to my sister-in-law, he told me later he was relieved to reach her and not my brother as he didn't think he could have told him without breaking down. I told him that if my brother was going to contact the rest of my family that was fine, except for my mom. I didn't want my mom called that day at all, I was afraid she may wind up coming to the hospital and I wasn't prepared to deal with that.
My labor was progressing, slowly. The nursing staff was wonderful and did everything possible to see we were both comfortable (they even ordered Chinese food for my husband who was starving.) I was given pitocin to start the process and this made me feel terrible, like I had the flu. After a while of feeling miserable the nurse and my husband convinced me to take a jacuzzi to make me feel better. It did relieve some of the nausea and cramping. It also helped my water break. Once that happened the contractions came more steadily and more powerful. The anesthesiologist was called to give me an epidural. The first one didn't work right and it wound up traveling down my right leg. A second anesthesiologist was called and I was given another. This time it worked.
The closer I came to delivering the more nervous, uptight and excited we became. We still didn't know what sex our child was, who it was going to look like... There was a lot of anticipation building.
Finally the nurses said I was fully dilated and the Dr. was called in. My husband was great throughout delivery, which I never doubted, but he did. He had been afraid that seeing me in pain and discomfort would be too much for him to deal with. He said later that once it really started he didn't even have time to think about it, it was such an amazing sight.
Our son was born on Saturday, May 3rd, 1997 at 9:37 P.M. He weighed 5 lbs., 14 oz. and was 20 1/2" long. He looked so much like my husband that he became a junior, this was not the original plan but it couldn't be helped. He was perfect in every way and so beautiful. What I thought sounded morbid earlier, holding him and cherishing him, turned out to be the most natural thing in the world and you couldn't have pried him out of our arms.
The nurses and Dr. left the room and allowed us to spend as much time as we wanted with our son. When we felt ready the nurses came back in and took some pictures and hand and footprints. All of these things have become treasured items.
A while later the Dr. came back and I was given the choice of being moved to a regular hospital room or staying in one on the maternity floor. I chose to move. While preparing to move the nurse came in and told us we had a visitor in the adjacent waiting area. I couldn't believe this ... I had told everyone I didn't want to see anyone. It turned out to be my dad. He was so worried that something was going to happen to me that he couldn't just wait around for a phone call and had to come and make sure I was okay. It was fine, I was actually glad to see him. He didn't stay long and told us to call when we were ready for visitors.
We moved to the regular room and they had arranged a pull-out bed for my husband to be able to stay with me. Just as we were getting settled, the nurse came in and said this time my mother was there. At this point I lost it ... I didn't want to see anyone - especially my mother! My husband went to meet them and it turned out to be his mother, not mine. She flew all the way from the west coast and I felt I couldn't turn her away. She and her sister came in and spent a few minutes with us, trying to console us as much as we were them. After they left we tried to settle in and get some sleep. Although I was physically and emotionally drained I had difficulty sleeping.
In the morning I sent my husband to call my brother and have him break the news to my mom. About an hour or so later both my mother and my brother appeared in my hospital room. They agreed to stay with me while my husband went home for a shower and change of clothes. My brother wanted to go with my husband because he knew we had a house full of shower gifts from the weekend before and wanted to put everything away in the attic for us so we wouldn't have to deal with it. My husband thought it best he go home alone and my brother stay with my mom and I. He told me later it was important to him that he be the one to put everything away - part of his grieving process I guess.
When my husband returned the Dr. came and my mom and brother left. We talked to the Dr. about what possibly could have happened. He explained that at this point he had no answers. He said everything appeared normal during the delivery, no cord abnormalities, no obvious malformations with the baby. We decided to have an autopsy performed and he explained it would take some time for the results. He then did a quick exam and asked me when I wanted to go home. I decided I had had enough of the hospital, although everyone was very nice and compassionate I couldn't stand being there any longer. He agreed that I could be discharged once he completed all the paperwork and he would follow up with me at home the following day.
After he left, a representative from the "loss support group" came by to discuss our options. She offered assistance in making arrangements for the funeral service and burial arrangements. We asked her to make the initial contact with the funeral home in our home town and set an appointment for us to meet with them later in the week about our wishes. With this completed I was discharged and left the hospital.
Arriving home with empty arms was pretty brutal. This was not how I had imagined coming home after delivering our baby. I still couldn't believe this was happening to us.
We had a lot of phone calls and even a few visitors that day. We also had a ton of deliveries. Flowers, fruit baskets... I couldn't believe the outpouring from friends and family. By the next day, I had had enough of being cooped up in the house, enough of the deliveries and other constant reminders. I told my husband to get me out ... he did, we went for a drive and wound up at the mall. We bought a gift for our niece's first communion. I was delighted for her and yet I couldn't get it out of my head that our son would never take his first communion or do any of the things we dreamed. I began to realize that even though I escaped the house - I hadn't escaped anything that had happened. I just kept hoping it was a bad dream and I was going to wake up.
We held a very small, immediate family only, service. We couldn't see the point in having a large gathering for people to say goodbye ... they never got to say hello or even see our son.
Even though we are moving on with our lives, and expecting again is very exciting, I still have difficulty with a number of things:
One of the most difficult things I deal with are the people that don't know how to act around me. I am constantly treated with "kid gloves" and I really hate that. I get so frustrated I want to shake them and yell, "it's okay to talk about it, if I get upset I do and if I do its not your fault!" Now that I am expecting again either nobody seems to know what to say, whether to congratulate me or not, or they assume I'm "over" the loss of my first born now that I'm pregnant again.
I am also having difficulty with the timing of this second pregnancy, we are due two weeks later than my son's birth date. My husband says it's only a date, it doesn't mean anything. I am harder to convince of this.
I decided to keep the same OB for this child. I am very comfortable with him and he is very reassuring and takes "special care" with me during my appointments. It is hard to go to the same office and at each appointment I am neurotic until it's over. It seems I go in with fear and dread and come out floating on cloud nine ... we had our first ultrasound last week and everything is great ... for now!
I also can't attend baby showers or children's birthday parties. I have trouble seeing all the gifts. I keep remembering how difficult it must have been for my husband to go home from the hospital and move everything to storage from our baby showers.
Although I will never forget my son I feel like I am moving forward. Thank you for allowing me to share my story and I find it somehow comforting to know I am not alone. I wish everyone good health and hope your dreams come true.
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