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Remembering Sam

by Sarah Hanley

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998

Our first baby was born at 10:19 am on 10/19/98. I was exactly 24 weeks pregnant. His name was Sam. He weighed 1.7 lbs. and was 12 inches long. He was our son. Our first child. He lived for 5 hours. We buried him the next day.

I tell this story in the hopes that it will make someone else who has gone through a similar experience feel that they are not so alone. I can honestly say to you that I've found a few others who have my same type story and hearing their words has helped me tremendously. I have also cried for all of you who have shared your stories on web sites such as this. We, alone, can understand what each other have gone through and are going through.

I found out on my 35th birthday that I was pregnant. We were ecstatic as we'd been trying for over a year to get pregnant. My due date was Feb. 8, 1999. Because of my 'high risk age," at 10 weeks I had a CVS test to check for chromosome defects. We found out the next day that all was well and it was a boy. It made the whole thing seem real. We were going to be parents!

At 16 weeks I had red blood spotting. This was the only thing the dr./nurse told me to really worry about; bright red blood. Well, I had it and went to have an immediate ultrasound. My husband met me at the Dr.'s office. They showed a perfectly healthy baby. Nothing to worry about. Take it easy. Get rest, drink plenty of fluids. I did. The next week, more bleeding. Another ultrasound. Things were fine and normal. The baby was growing. They had no idea why this was happening. I had high AFP levels...that meant possible Spina Bifida. Another u/s check. It had been false positive. Our baby was perfect. Not to worry. But the bleeding never stopped this time and my cramping got worse and worse. I had 2 or 3 more ultrasounds until, on my 19th week, they found a large blood clot near my cervix. This, they said, was the cause of the blood. Again, baby was fine and growing. Each week brought another crisis for my husband and I to worry about.

After a horrible 2 weeks of cramping, severe abdominal pains, and heavy bleeding, I went back for another ultrasound. I had another blood clot running down the length of my placenta. I passed this about 4 days later. But the cramping continued, as did the bleeding. On Oct. 12 (I was 23 weeks), I was told I had chronic placental separation. My placenta had been abrupting, pulling away from my uterus almost since 16 weeks and that was causing my pain, bleeding, etc. They were going to put me on steroids--to speed to maturation of the baby--in 2 weeks. Everyone was so optimistic, including us. However, 4 days later on 10/16 at 4 AM I went into labor.

They managed to stop labor by early morning of 10/17. They gave me magnesium and some other drug, lots of fluids; I had tubes running everywhere. I stayed in the hospital, and my husband, my mom and sisters, and his parents all watched as the contractions went away. It was such a relief. The doctors told us that if I went into labor again, they could not stop it without risking my health. But that's okay, I thought. It's not going to start again! It has stopped now! I could not fathom that it would happen again. It never occurred to me how serious it all was. How could it be? We're going to have a perfectly healthy baby! Everyone else has healthy babies! Why not us? I was having a baby shower the very next week. He was fine! Of course everything will be fine! I remember my husband saying to me, "Do you understand what he said? They are not going to stop it again." I just said, "Yes, I understood that." Again, I just never thought it would start again. But it did. On Sunday, 10/18 late in the afternoon I started feeling contractions again. They had taken me off of the magnesium. They gave me some other medications, but nothing stopped them this time. They got worse and worse. I had to get an epidural and give birth to a baby I knew would not survive.

At 10:19 on 10/19, Sam was born. He was beautiful and perfect. He was just born too soon to survive. We got to see him before he died. He had all of these tiny tubes running in and out of him. A ventilator in his mouth because his lungs were barely formed. He recognized my voice and moved his hands when I spoke to him. I used to sing to him and read "Green Eggs and Ham" to him while he was in my womb. He should still be safe inside me now. But he isn't. My heart still breaks when I remember my husband crying, "Poor little, Sam," after we went to see him; the pain on my beautiful husband's face after they told us Sam had died. And when they brought him in for us to hold him after he died, that is something that is still so painful to remember, that I can't really share the agony of it.

A child so wanted, so loved. It's been over a week since this happened and I'm not crying all the time any more. We had to put away his ultrasound pictures and the few little toys we had bought for him. I put away my "What to Expect When You're Expecting" books and the little blanket my sister bought for him. The hospital gave us his "things" and we put those away, too. His tiny feet prints on buttons that say "It's a Boy." We have nothing to celebrate here. Telling everyone at my work and his work has been just awful. People don't know what to say. They will never understand, but they've all been very supportive. We are lucky to have that.

But reading your stories on the Web has helped me by leaps and bounds. There is so little info that I've found on placental abruption--and they may never know what caused mine in the first place--but I have found others who've had similar trials. Reading all that I can, both human stories and medical journals, has helped me so much to wake up hopeful that one day we will try again and have another beautiful child carried full term. Waking up with hope, with a purpose helps me get through the early morning hours when all I can think of is his face, his birth, his funeral, the life he never got to live. Waking up with hope.

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