Alice would be 18 months old today. I think about her constantly, but significant events like this make me stop and think more often. I find myself wondering even more what she would be like, what our lives would be like with her here, and how she would be different than Ben. At 18 months she would be a little girl. Walking, running, talking, and keeping both Jason and I very busy. I miss her every day, but on days like this I really feel the depth of our loss, and how much was taken from us when she died. We are better people and better parents because of her though. We have a better relationship with each other and with our friends and family as we’ve all dealt with our grief together. We are living our lives despite the loss of hers and we are more grateful for what we do have. We are forever changed.
Last night while out to dinner, catching up with a friend, something happened that has never happened to me before. It was timely, and heartbreaking, and emotional, but it was a good thing too.
Our hostess, Amy, was apparently having a slow night. She hadn’t had any tables for hours. She came by our table a few times to take our drink orders, to check up on us, and to see Ben. She kept telling us how adorable he was and even took him for a bit while we were eating to walk around the restaurant while he was being fussy. (This was after I asked if she wanted to hold him, of course.) I didn’t feel weird about letting this stranger hold my baby at all, which really isn’t typical of me.
When she came back to the table at one point I asked if she has kids. She has a girl and a boy, seven and four years old. She said she adores babies but she’s done having them. I said how interesting it was that I was totally fine with her holding Ben, but anxious about other things. Jason mentioned that he has been checking on Ben during the night since being at the hotel this week (we are in Minnesota right now) and that he’s been more anxious than usual.
Typically I don’t tell people I don’t know about Alice. It makes people uncomfortable and brings everyone’s mood down. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about her or let people know about her, but when it’s a stranger that I’ll probably never see again I often just keep to myself. Jason tends to be more open than I am in this way, which is something I love about him.
All this being said, I felt like I wanted to tell Amy about Alice.
“Anxiety is so weird though. I’m not anxious about things like germs but I am about other things. Before having Ben I lost a daughter when I was 38 weeks pregnant, so there’s a lot of anxiety we both deal with because of that.”
“Me too. I lost my son.”
“Oh my goodness. How far along were you?”
At this point we were all getting a little emotional. I had never met someone who has experienced a full term stillbirth before. I have one friend I met because of this, but we had talked online a lot before we had met in person. Amy is the first in 18 months that has ever said “me too” when I’ve told them about Alice.
She asked what Alice’s name was. Her son’s name was Max. He was her first child too. She got choked up a bit when talking about him, even years later. I could tell Jason’s eyes were teary.
And all I kept thinking was that I almost didn’t tell her at all. The conversation had actually moved on a bit when I brought up my anxiety about losing a baby. For some reason though, I told her. And I’m so glad I did.
Aah, that back woods Vermonter in me just came out a bit. We don’t like to pronounce our g’s at the end of words.
Jason and I got up at the butt-crack of morning on Sunday (that’s 3am for those not current on your obscure anatomy) packed a suitcase, and hefted a small amount of stuff for us along with a completely disproportionate amount of stuff for Ben to the airport. Our flight was at 5:50am. We arrived at the Cincinnati airport, which is really in Northern Kentucky (no, really) at around 11am Sunday morning. And then it began…
We got our rental car, drove through the city up I-75, and checked into our hotel. We then went through and looked at how many open houses we could get to before they all closed for the day. We ended up seeing 3 houses. One of them we loved.
The next day we met with our realtor and saw 11 more houses.
The day after that Jason started a training for work but Ben & I saw 5 more houses.
For those of you who don’t want to do the math on that… that’s 19 houses. You can probably guess how well I’m keeping them straight in my head. There are any number of stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, finished basements, master bathrooms, and whatever else comes standard in a house these days, running through my head. You can also guess how well Ben did being taken in and out of the car every 15 or so minutes for an entire day, and how patient he was at the end of it. (He actually did amazing, but we all have our limits. I don’t blame him for getting fussy eventually.)
“What did you think of the yard at the house on the cul-de-sac?”
“Wait… which one was that?”
“Does the one off 8 Mile Road have a finished basement?”
“Uhhhh… beats me.”
“The house near the middle school… did it have a garage?”
“You think I remember small details like that?”
Everything is blending together. Certain details are standing out, but mostly I remember the impression I got from the house when I walked into it. And you know what? Maybe that’s what actually matters. Maybe the feeling we get when we’re in it is important, and not whether or not the back patio is stone or stamped concrete. (For the record, I prefer stamped concrete.)
On Friday we’ll visit 2 more houses as well as 2 we’ve already seen that we like. The reality is that we could live in any of the houses we’ve seen. None of them are terrible, but none of them are perfect either. It’s going to come down to just deciding what’s important. Do we really need a basketball court in our backyard? What about a hot tub? Can we finish the basement after we buy the house? How about investing in painting over that god-awful color in the dining room? Do I absolutely need a bathtub that big?
(The answer to that last one is yes. Yes I do.)
Jason and I have been married 7 years, and in those 7 years we’ve had 5 different addresses. The most recent is the house we are listing for sale next week. I’m writing this post on my phone, from my bed, on our last night in this house. I figure since I have a baby sleeping on my arm who will most certainly wake up if I move him, I will use this time to be all reflective and crap.
A lot of pretty important things have happened in this house. We’ve experienced countless dull things while living here — loads of laundry, garbage days (is it a recycling week or not?), snow storms, etc… But of course it’s the remarkable things that stand out:
We’ve had countless visitors including all members of our immediate families as well as best friends from the East Coast. Parents, sisters, and even our niece have spent time here with us.
We got our dog, Everett a few months after we moved here. We’ve walked him outside in -30° and 110° temperatures, and everywhere in between.
One of our friends lived with us here for 8 months and quickly became one of our best friends, if not a member of our family. We would have kept her if we could.
We found out we were pregnant for the first time in this house. I sat on the (closed) toilet and Jason sat across from me on the side of the tub in our master bathroom. We just stared at each other and at the positive pregnancy test for a while and he asked me “so we’re really doing this?” and I responded, “yup, I guess we are.”
We grieved for our daughter. Alice, in this house. We received close to 100 sympathy cards and so many gorgeous flowers from loving friends and family. We had dinner brought to us. We cried and sobbed and held each other on the couch in the living room.
We brought our son home to this house. This will always be his first home, even though he won’t remember it. Those first few weeks of having a newborn, of sleeplessness, of doubt, of love, were all spent in this house.
And now, our first house will be packed up, cleaned, repainted, and listed for slightly higher than what we purchased it for (woo!) We are headed to Cincinnati with our baby, dog, and two cats. We already have so many people there, but we’re leaving behind so many more. Our next chapter is about to begin and I feel ill prepared as we say goodbye to this house and to Minnesota. I suppose I’ll have to really learn how to spell Cincinnati soon… that’s a good first step, right?
Small Warning: Hopefully you can figure this out from the title of this post, but in case you can’t, this post is the account of my son’s birth. If words like dilation, cervix, or vaginal gross you out, you may not want to keep reading. :) Also, this post is really very long, but honestly, it was a long day.
If you don’t know about my first pregnancy, you can read about Alice here. Be warned, it’s a sad story, but the stillbirth of my daughter played a huge role in the birth of my son. (Actually, it plays a huge role in my life every day, but pregnancy and childbirth in particular.)
[ Saturday, May 3, 2014 - 6:30am ]
Few things will get me out of bed at the butt-crack of morning on the weekend. Having a baby… well that is totally worth waking up early. My induction was scheduled for 8am. I got about 4 hours of restless, excited, tossing and turning, uncomfortable, 36+ weeks pregnant sleep on Friday night. Jason woke me up Saturday morning and we packed the car and headed to the hospital to have a baby.
Now, packing a suitcase and heading to the hospital to check in like it’s a hotel and you’re there for a weekend getaway is really strange. But that was our plan all along and we’d been counting down the days (and then the hours) until we would be able to say it was our son’s birth day.
[ 8:20am ]
Soon after we got to the hospital (about 20 minutes late, because that’s just how I am) we were in a room, I was in a super attractive hospital gown, and we were ready to get this show on the road. Excited texts were being sent and received because everyone knew that this was the day we would be having a baby.
[ 9:30am ]
I started the day knowing I was somewhat dilated. My doctor had checked my cervix earlier in the week and told us we were good to come to the hospital on Saturday (versus needing to start drugs Friday evening.) I was currently 2cm dilated and 50% effaced. My Doctor said my son should be born around dinnertime. My IV was put in, a drop of pitocin was started to start contractions, and all we had to do was wait… and wait.
[ 12:30pm ]
My best friend Mary arrived, with camera in tow, to stay with us and to photograph the day’s events. We had been texting and she was worried I would progress too quickly for her to get there in time (I quickly went from 6cm to 10cm when I delivered my daughter and I only pushed for 6 minutes. She had a good basis for concern that it would happen again.) Better safe than sorry, she came to hang out with us even though I was only dilated to 4cm at that point.
[ 2:00pm ]
Still right on track and starting to really feel the contractions, I was also hungry. I wasn’t allowed to eat solid food but the (amazing) nurses were great about getting me juice and soda and jell-o… a pregnant girl’s dream diet, huh? I requested the anesthesiologist around this time for my epidural. I was starting to need to breathe through my contractions and, since it was part of my plan all along, I decided to have them go ahead and numb me up. At the very least I wouldn’t be able to feel my stomach growling.
Disclaimer: I know I wanted an epidural because, regardless of my intense fear of needles, I am a huge wuss when it comes to pain. I had one with my first labor and I knew I would have one with my second. Those of you who birth naturally, good for you. It’s not for me. Those of you who want the anesthesiologist to meet you at the door when you get to the hospital, good for you too. However you choose to go through the labor and delivery process, that’s awesome.
[ 2:30 pm ]
I’m sitting on the side of the bed and leaning way over as my back is prepared for the epidural while Jason faces me. Let’s back up a bit… just over 13 months prior to this day Jason and I went through a horrific loss. This all took place in the same hospital, on the same floor, at roughly the same time of day, as this labor. We knew that both of us would have to deal with some PTSD triggers and flashbacks. One of the hardest things I did that day was get the epidural. I was scared and shocked and unbearably sad. I worked myself up and my needle phobia (that I’ve had since I was 8) didn’t help matters. I basically panicked and my sobbing and shaking made it very hard for the anesthesiologist to do his job. (That being said, he wasn’t the most personable guy in the first place. Seriously, he was grumpy.)
Now, fast forward to my current story… my first experience with getting an epidural had me set up for anxiety before I even asked for it, so I knew it would be difficult. Making it even more difficult, the anesthesiologist on call was the same guy. (Crap luck, or what?) Leaning over and holding Jason’s hands I soon started crying. I wasn’t sobbing though, and the process was actually done fairly quickly. It hurt, as getting a tube inserted into your spinal column does, but it was over quickly and I could breath easy, and try to get my emotions under control a bit. It was emotional for both Jason and I as we remembered the last time, but not nearly as bad as we remembered either. I definitely built it up in my head as being this awful terrible thing. In all honesty, it was awful and terrible the first time, but without all of the emotions of our loss it was much easier this time.
[ 3:00pm ]
My amazing nurse, Joanie, introduced me to The Peanut Ball. I was about to get up close and personal with a large, oddly shaped, yellow ball. The ball was placed between my legs and I laid on my side. It is meant to help open your pelvis and can reduce both tearing and the amount of time you have to push. Sign me up! I was ok with both those things. Roughly every half hour the nurse and my mother-in-law (a former nurse) helped to turn me over and reposition the peanut.
Picture now, if you will, me unable to walk, in a hospital gown, which opens in the back, surrounded by my nurse, mother-in-law, best friend (equipped with a camera, remember) and husband. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing I’m not modest because everyone in the room was treated to multiple views of my ass. And Mary, bless her, didn’t photograph any of it (at least not that I’m aware of.)
[ 8:00pm ]
Still starving. Still being rotated every half hour. Still 4cm and 50% effaced. Grrr. Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, which was perfect, but they weren’t as intense as the doctor would have liked. The pitocin was doing it’s job, but my body wasn’t cooperating. Add to the mix a fever and chills (me), an increasing heart rate (me), and another increasing heart rate (baby). Everything was basically mirroring my first labor, but this time we were able to monitor the baby. Jason was becoming more and more anxious watching the fetal monitor climb as baby’s heart rate climbed higher. Anxiety and panic played a huge part throughout the day for both of us.
[ 10:00pm ]
Add an intense migraine to the mix of my symptoms. My head was pounding, the light hurt my eyes, and nothing else had resolved itself. Baby’s heart rate was still high as was mine and my fever hadn’t broke yet. I was shivering on and off from the fever. Literally, my teeth were chattering even though I was covered in warm blankets. They had me eat a Popsicle and drink broth to get me more hydrated and get my blood sugar up, hoping that would help my headache. They also gave me oxygen, which I’m sure helped to wake the rest of the room up as well. :) The alarm on my heart rate monitor had been adjusted twice so that it wasn’t constantly going off when it reached a certain rate. My heart rate was frequently around 150bpm and baby’s was closer to 190bpm. I was having more and more trouble controlling my panic (something I had dealt with throughout my pregnancy) due to my other symptoms.
[ Sunday, May 4, 2014 - 12:30am ]
By this time I was sure I would be super dilated. I had to be. It had been forever since I was last checked and the pitocin was doing it’s job. My first labor was only 16 hours and we were nearing that length. Subsequent labors are always faster, or so I’ve been told. The doctor checked me again and I was 5cm and still 50% effaced. Dammit. I was anxious to be able to have a reprieve from my panic and headache. Jason was just anxious. Everyone was tired. And I was still starving.
After checking me and finding out that I hadn’t progressed my doctor recommended a c-section. Jason and I had talked about the possibility already because the baby was breech at one point. We basically both said yes at the same time. We were ready to meet our son and be done with labor. There was too much to worry about and nothing to be done when all you could do was wait and stare at the monitors. I know Jason had enough of staring at the monitors and I had enough of feeling frustrated and sick.
[ 1:00am ]
The procedure is explained to us. Papers are signed. The anesthesiologist is called back. My epidural had worn off significantly (awesome) so it was recommended that I get a spinal to numb me for surgery. I agreed and even though Jason couldn’t be there with me when I was being prepped in the operating room, my doctor assured him that she would take his place helping me to stay calm. While I was getting the spinal put it (which took two different tries) my doctor was beside me the entire time holding my hand with her other arm around my shoulders. Honestly, I couldn’t have ever asked for a better care team. She said she would help me not to panic and she did. Lucky for me I was still a little numb from the epidural so I didn’t even really feel the spinal being put in. And after that I couldn’t feel anything at all (which means it worked!)
[ 1:05am ]
I’m laying down and they’re making sure I’m numb and ready to go. I start to feel sick (which is so awesome when you can’t move) and like I can’t breathe. Apparently when your chest is numb and you can’t actually feel your chest moving up and down as you breathe it can cause panic. I felt like I was only able to take quick, short breaths. I kept telling my doctor I couldn’t breathe and she kept assuring me that, if I could talk, then I could breathe. It’s good logic when you stop to think about it, but when you’re on the edge of hyperventilating and freaking out your mind doesn’t really stop to think about how logical something like that is. To distract me I asked the assistant anesthesiologist to talk to me. I don’t remember what he said but I remember listening to him talk and him stroking my hair.
The two surgeons (my doctor and another resident) told me they were pinching me and that if I couldn’t feel it they were going to start. Soon after that Jason came in and sat beside my head while I tried to breathe and stay calm. It was calming just to have Jason in the room with me and I was so grateful he was there.
[ 1:24am ]
My doctor said something along the lines of “here he is” and I heard a cry. A cry. I heard my son cry for the first time. He was alive and I couldn’t be more grateful for anything in the world than I was for the sound of that cry. A nurse brought him around to my left and Jason told me to look. The first glimpse I got of my son was when he was naked and wailing at the nurse. Jason was told to go with him to the other side of the room and I told him to go. Around this time Mary was in the room as well and as they stitched me up I could hear my son crying, my husband crying, and my best friend crying. And of course I was crying and completely overwhelmed with emotion.
From the time they started surgery to the time Ben was born was 8 minutes. How crazy is that? Modern medicine is so awesome. It took a little more time to stitch me back up but while they did Jason came back over to me. This time he was holding our son. I’ll never forget how delicately he held him and what he said to me. “Sam, look what they gave me.” We were absolutely floored. Ben was born at 36 weeks and 3 days. We were prepared for him to need to have oxygen or to have to stay in the NICU for a little while. We had been warned that early babies could need extra help breathing. We were ok with all of this and prepared for him to be taken out of the room to be treated. Instead, there was Jason holding him. He was swaddled and sleeping and absolutely perfect.
[ 2:00am ]
Now is around when I lost track of time. It’s very early in the morning, I just went through 15 hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section. I am more tired than I have ever been in my life and starving, but adrenaline is keeping me going. We are all brought into the recovery room where Jason’s mom got to meet Ben (she even got to hold him before I did! I couldn’t yet because I was still numb. She says she feels badly about this but when Jason asked if she wanted to hold him I didn’t expect her to say no! :)) I was being given post-op instructions by the nurses but I was only partly listening while staring over her shoulder at my baby.
When the anesthesia wore off enough that they were finally able to give him to me they laid him on my chest. He looked up at me and squeaked… and just kept squeaking. I remember asking if everyone was listening because that squeaking was basically the cutest thing I had ever heard in my life. He was the most perfect thing I had ever seen. Through my exhaustion and emotion and tears and adrenaline I remember thinking about how perfect he was and how grateful I was that he was finally here with me.
[ 3:00am ]
Jason called my Mom and was able to tell her first that Ben was here. He handed me the phone and she told me how happy she was for me. We were both crying (of course). I told her I didn’t blame her for falling asleep (I knew she had because she hadn’t answered my texts for a while) and that she should go back to bed. It was 4am on the east coast and she said there was no way she would ever be able to get back to sleep. Good point Mom. :)
[ 4:00am ]
We are transferred to the postpartum floor where we would stay the rest of the time at the hospital. For the next few days Ben slept a lot and we just stared at him. There was obviously more to it than that but really that’s the important part. The three of us were together and the rest seemed easy compared to what we had already been through. Ben was tiny and perfect and we were absolutely in love with him.
(All photos in this post were taken by my talented friend Mary. :))
When I told my best friend Mary that I was pregnant again one of the first things she said was “I’m going to photograph the birth!” My reaction to that? “Ok!” She had her youngest daughter’s birth photographed and told me how meaningful those photos are to her. So, on the day of my induction, Mary came equipped with her camera and lots of energy to stay with us for (what turned out to be) many, many hours. Thank you Mary, for this amazing gift, and for being there for us always.
I’ve been pregnant for what seems like forever. I found out I was pregnant in August 2012. In April 2013 our daughter was stillborn. I found out I was pregnant again in September 2013 and now here I am at nearly 36 weeks. I’ll do the math for you… that’s 17 months pregnant out of the last 21. Oy.
All that being said, I actually enjoy being pregnant. My pregnancy with Alice was harder physically (lots of headaches and more aches and pains) but I was also blissfully ignorant to all that could go wrong. This time around it’s much more difficult mentally, as you can imagine pregnancy after a loss would be. I feel like my body handles pregnancy well though, which I can’t even take credit for. I’m really just lucky. With the exception of stretch marks, I don’t have many of the common problems women are made to endure while pregnant. I had morning sickness (but no throwing up) for a few weeks. I have migraines sometimes but not very often. I have no swelling and no crazy weight gain and I mostly don’t feel like I’m waddling around with a huge, heavy beach ball under my shirt. (Though, that feeling does increase ever so slightly every day.)
I know my life is about to change drastically and that it will never be the same. Even future pregnancies will be completely different with a child to care for in addition to myself. (How do you people do it with multiple children? I suppose I’ll find out at some point but color me impressed!) Before my life takes this drastic change, I’d like to remember some things about being pregnant this time, even if it means looking back on these words and saying to myself “wow, you had no idea how good you had it!”
Kicks: I never tire of feeling movement inside me. It’s the weirdest sensation but it means baby is healthy and gaining strength. Even if it’s 3am and I can’t sleep, if he’s kicking away in there I don’t care that he’s keeping me up. I love having Jason feel him kick too. I’m glad he can experience just a little of the connection I already have with our son.
Hiccups: It’s always been a funny concept to me that babies get the hiccups before they’re born. Feeling that rhythmic jolt in my belly is pretty cool and usually makes me laugh when I realize that’s what I’m feeling.
Doctors: Since this is the last pregnancy I will have with my team of doctors, I really hope my doctors in the future are as amazing as they are now. It makes all the difference to have a care team that truly cares for you and your family. My OB scheduled her on-call time around my induction. And my PCP will visit us in the hospital on a Sunday so he can meet him (just one week earlier than he would anyway, since he’s his pediatrician too.)
Cravings: I want all the fruit. I never liked grapefruit until now. I’m so glad watermelon prices are going down because I want to eat it constantly. Also, bananas! And any kind of berries I can get my hands on.
Sleep: Sleeping hasn’t really ever been easy for me and it’s no different during this pregnancy. Getting up to pee every hour or so doesn’t help either. Hopefully it’s all just good preparation for when I have to get up constantly to take care of a newborn.
Anxiety: Sky high. It’s just worse and worse. It keeps me up at night. It gives me panic attacks. It’s really no fun at all. It’s expected though, and normal. I am anxious about a lot of things but mostly the fear and panic just hit me suddenly and it feels like I’m suffocating. It feels like someone is standing on my chest and I can’t breathe. I also have a lot of anxiety about having flashbacks while in the hospital and remembering things I didn’t know my memory kept stored.
Jason: I have the absolute best husband. Sorry to all the other husbands out there. I’m sure you’re great too. Mine is better though. He is going to be an amazing father. He’s nervous about so many little things, it’s so sweet. He’s been working so hard to get the house ready for this little guy. He’s SO excited to meet him. I can’t wait to see Jason be a father to our son.
Friends & Family: Everyone is so excited for us. RIDICULOUSLY excited for us. More excited than I ever would have thought. My Mom is basically walking on air she’s so thrilled. I get daily texts, tweets, and comments from people who can’t wait to meet him. Everyone at Jason’s work asks about me and how I’m doing constantly. It’s so heartwarming to know so many people want this for us.
That turned out to be a bit longer than I intended. I’m glad it’s out of my head though. With 4 days to go, think good thoughts for us and keep a lookout for some photos after this weekend since I’ll be excited to share my son with the world. :)
I wrote this post a couple weeks ago after a good friend of mine posted a pregnancy update of her own. It made me think that I wanted to somehow document the way I’m feeling right now, even though my situation is not typical and not happy all the time.
I’ve been hesitant to post about my pregnancy on my blog. I would have loved to start with a fun 12 week update, announcing that we are happily expecting a tiny bundle of joy, and continue on in that fashion until I eventually go into labor and it’s the best day of my life…
But the truth is, when I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t expecting a baby. I was expecting another loss. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to get their hopes up. I didn’t want anyone to have expectations that everything would turn out perfect. Despite my own logic and everyone in my life telling me I haven’t, losing Alice makes me feel like I let everyone down. I didn’t want to do that again. I didn’t want to feel like I failed again.
Today, at 31 weeks pregnant, I still feel that way, though admittedly somewhat less as we get closer to my due date. I know the chances of this baby being born alive are good, and logically everything is fine, but it’s hard to tell yourself that when you’ve already been through a full term loss. Because for 8.5 months my pregnancy with my daughter was perfect. She was healthy. I was healthy. Everything was completely normal and no one had any reason to expect she wouldn’t be born alive. But she wasn’t. For some unknown reason her heart stopped beating and my completely normal, uncomplicated pregnancy turned into what now shows up on my medical charts: IUFD. Intrauterine Fetal Demise. Unknown cause.
Despite not feeling normal about anything related to this pregnancy, I can fill you in on a few of the normal things I’m experiencing:
– I’m craving fruit – watermelon, grapefruit, bananas, kiwi, and berries too.
– I’m feeling ok but I’m always sore from round ligament pain and some back pain as I get bigger.
– I have frequent headaches. I get winded easily and have trouble taking deep breaths.
– This little munchkin is pretty active and favors my right side. He responds to his Daddy’s voice and if you poke at him when he’s kicking he’ll kick back.
– I still have insomnia and I don’t get enough good sleep. This is common for me but is made worse by not being able to get comfortable at night.
– I’m starting to think that I should maybe look through some infant care books to feel a little more prepared.
I’m a fan of real, raw writing and believe that blogs are a good way to process things. But I also don’t mean to be negative, especially when we are absolutely in love with this little guy and can’t wait to meet him. Reality though, which I also believe is good to represent on blogs, is sometimes difficult… and this is our reality. We are 5 weeks away from meeting our son and our daughter was stillborn at full term nearly a year ago. It’s a reality I still have trouble believing is my own some days.
For the last few years, instead of making resolutions that are long forgotten by March, I have chosen a word to focus on for the year. Just one word that helps to set the tone for the year ahead, to help you through the year ahead, and to help you in ways you didn’t even foresee.
Past words have included aware, balance, moment, embrace, and nurture. Some have served me quite well, and others turned out to not work the way I would have liked. They always start out with the best of intentions though, and they always serve a purpose in one way or another.
The word I have chosen for this year is journey. I wanted to choose a word that was both forward-thinking and respectful of the past as well. So much of my life right now is defined by what happened in 2013, but that’s not all of who I am, and so much more lies ahead. Just as my life so far has been made up of a lot of good things and some bad, so will my future. My journey will continue like that for the rest of my life and I will try to embrace it. I will reflect on what I have been through, and survived, as well as look forward to good things ahead. My journey is so uniquely mine and I’d like to really try to appreciate it this year.
To read part 1 of Alice’s story, click here.
Around noon I was started on induction medication. A few hours later I was 3cm dilated and ready for an IV. The nurse was able to draw blood off the IV tube to use for my blood tests (a truly awesome thing since I have a needle phobia.) Since there was no concern for the health of my baby, I was able to be given anxiety medication. This was a small bit of good news on a day filled with bad.
Due to this anxiety medication (it was good stuff guys) I don’t remember all of the next couple days, and I remember things out of order. Not being able to remember the waiting and the devastation I felt that day is a small mercy. I got through everything as it happened and I didn’t have the mental capacity to be anxious or worried about what was coming next.
My amazing friend Mary joined us at the hospital that afternoon and provided a lot of distraction for us both (and snacks too!) She was absolutely heartbroken for us and after Jason called her to let her know that Alice had passed away, she came over right away. She is the type of person that can’t just sit and do nothing, when she could be doing something to help, and I’m so so glad she was there for us.
After my IV was in I was able to get medication through it instead of having to take it orally. I also only needed to drink because my mouth was dry, as the IV was keeping me hydrated (that was really nice after having to drink water like a fish my entire pregnancy.) Soon, my contractions were painful enough that I thought it was time to ask for an epidural. This was part of my birth plan all along, it just depended on when I asked for it.
Getting the epidural was something I was nervous about all along, and it wasn’t any fun. I don’t remember having any contractions while having it put in, but I was crying and shaking a lot. The anesthesiologist wasn’t the most patient guy ever (the only not awesome experience we had with the staff the whole time) and I remember just wishing that it was over before it started. He didn’t like my crying either because it made me shake… I understand how that would make his job more difficult but I couldn’t help it!
After flight delays and traveling all day, Jason’s parents arrived at the hospital. They joined Mary and our friend Kelly in the waiting room. I don’t remember when they got there, or much about the night at all, but they were there and I know it was especially good for Jason to be able to hug them during such a difficult time. (Remember, I had anxiety meds, so I was basically doing fiiiiine.)
Perhaps before the epidural I was given pitocin through my IV as well. I was progressing ok and soon felt that I could sleep. We told Mary and Kelly to go home since the staff didn’t think I would be giving birth anytime soon. I wanted my friends to be able to sleep a bit. Waiting around is exhausting on top of all the emotions we were all going through. Jason and I both laid down and slept for about an hour and a half. At some point I remember feeling incredibly cold. Jason said that was a scary time for him because I wouldn’t stop shaking. The nurse piled blankets on top of me and I just kept shaking. She said it was common with IV fluids and that it sometimes caused a drop in body temperature.
Since I had an epidural and couldn’t walk I needed to have a catheter. I soon woke up feeling a lot of pressure and I told the nurse that my catheter hurt. She said to turn onto my side to see if it relieved some of the discomfort. I turned and still felt the pressure. She took it out and that didn’t help either. She told me that it shouldn’t be hurting any more and checked me to be sure. She then said that I was fully dilated and that on my next contraction I should push. Jason was awake and texted our families to tell them that I was starting to push. This was at 3:55am.
The nurse had me laying on my side and Jason holding my right leg up. She showed him how to hold it and then said she had to go get some things and that she would be right back. Very shortly after she left I pushed one more time and felt the baby crowning and her head come out. Jason told me “her head is out!” I wanted to respond and say “I know! I can feel it!” but another contraction came almost right away and I pushed her the rest of the way out. The nurse came in just then and Jason let go of me and the nurse cleaned her up and swaddled her. My baby girl was born and the only people in the room were Jason and I. (Since then we’ve thought that perhaps we should get a discount for having done the hardest part on our own! ;)) Alice Christine Piette was born at 4:01am on April 10, 2013. (I pushed for only 6 minutes… how’s that for efficient?!)
Jason came around the bed and hugged me. We had all day to prepare ourselves for the worst. We knew that our little girl would not be alive when she was born and so we were able to be very proud in that moment. We got through labor. We did it. Together we made a baby and brought her into the world.
The doctor then came in and Jason joked with her by asking her “where were you?!” She missed the main event! :) The nurse handed me Alice and I was able to hold and see my sweet baby girl for the first time. She had soft, dark hair and Jason thinks she had my nose. She was absolutely beautiful and looked very peaceful, just like she was sleeping. Jason and I held her and spent time with her while the doctor checked me out and finished the delivery process. I delivered the placenta (there were no knots or clots found in the cord, and nothing abnormal about the placenta) and got stitched and cleaned up. Jason’s parents and Mary then came in and were able to hold Alice as well.
We were able to stay at the hospital with her for as long as we wanted. We took pictures, and had a photographer come in and take photos as well (she was a volunteer through an amazing organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, who organizes volunteer photographers to take photos of your stillborn baby.) I thought that seeing Alice and holding her would be the hardest thing I would ever do, but Jason and I both would never trade that time we had with her for the world. We were able to see and hold her and say goodbye. It was also extremely difficult, but it was incredibly important to us as well. We now have photos and memories of her, and that is so so special to us.
We were discharged from the hospital around noon. I remember watching the nurse take my little girl out of the room and remembering thinking that that would be the last time I would ever see her, and that I was the most exhausted I have ever felt in my life. We went home then, with an empty car seat in the car and pain in our hearts.
“Has she been kicking today?” Jason asked as he did nearly every day since I started to feel her kick.
I thought about it and responded, “she hasn’t been too active, but she was kicking this morning a bit. No worries.”
Later that night I was soaking in the tub when I realized that I actually hadn’t felt her kick in a while. She typically moved around a bunch when I was relaxing, and the tub was one of my favorite places to relax while I was pregnant. After drying off and getting into bed she still hadn’t moved. It was late and I was getting nervous but told myself that I needed to sleep and that I was likely over-reacting.
When Jason’s alarm went off early the next morning I told him not to freak out, but that I was worried that I hadn’t felt her kick all night. He got me a glass of orange juice and I laid back down and waited for her to get a bit of a sugar rush and start kicking. But nothing happened.
We both decided it was best to call my doctor. While waiting to hear back we got in the car and drove to the hospital. The doctor called us on the way there and told us to meet her at labor and delivery and that I could get checked out.
Fast forward about an hour… I’m laying in triage and Jason is holding my hand. The doctor has the ultrasound hooked up and I can see our sweet baby girl on the monitor. She sweeps the wand back and forth, and back and forth. I hold my breath. I know something is wrong. She was always so active. She kept me awake at night kicking and rolling and punching me from within.
“What I’m doing is looking for the heartbeat…” the doctor says.
“And it’s not there,” I respond.
“No, it isn’t.”
At exactly 38 weeks pregnant we have just learned that our baby has died. I cry because I know it’s what I should do, but I still don’t fully believe what’s just happened. Her life is over before it ever began. One of my first thoughts was that this is the hardest thing we will ever have to go through in our lives, and that nothing will ever be the same.
I turned to Jason as the nurse wiped off my big belly and he hugged me and we cried. I remember saying “our little girl” and it prompted more tears. I wanted a little girl so badly and the day we found out we both cried happy tears. Everything was so perfect. Until this day.
After crying for a bit we both turn to the doctor.
“This sucks,” I tell her.
“It does. It really really does,” she responds.
“What do we do now? What are the next steps?” I ask. I already want this day to be over. This is easily the worst day of my life.
After feeling absolutely shocked that my perfect pregnancy, my perfect baby girl, were both gone, I was then thrown into one of the next stages of grief almost immediately: anger. I still needed to deliver my baby girl. She still needed to be born, even though she would not be breathing. It all seemed very cruel, that I still needed to go through this painful process, and in the end my baby would still be dead. We cried some more, we asked about options, we asked what the doctor thought could have gone wrong, and we prepared ourselves for the next steps of this painful process.
I asked the doctor if this was anything I did. I was responsible for caring for my little girl, I was her life support, and now her life was over. She assured me there was nothing that could have been done. Although extremely unlikely at full term, these things happen and the majority of people never find out what caused it. It could have been a chromosomal defect (which I tested negative for earlier in my pregnancy) or a knot or clot in the umbilical cord, or an infection, or a number of other reasons. Since then we have received many (many!) different test results from both me and my baby girl, none showing any abnormal results. We are still waiting for autopsy results.
Next, we needed to call our families. We were given time in triage to make calls while the nurses got our room ready. I called my Mom and told her the worst news I could have delivered. We cried together and talked about what we would need to do next. Jason called his family and they decided they would come visit right away. Jason made a few more calls to let our friends in Minnesota know, and my best friend in Philadelphia. Many more tears were shed every time we had to say the words “we lost the baby.”
Read Alice’s Birth Story.