Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mom to Jacob
Stillborn on June 1st, 2010
Toronto, Ontario

I lost my first baby.

I suspected I was pregnant within a week of conceiving, but I waited another week to take a pregnancy test because I didn't want to be disappointed and I thought it was too soon to get an accurate result. We were so happy when the pregnancy test was positive (and the 4 additional tests I took after that). I had 2 months of all day nausea that ended when I was 15 weeks pregnant, but if that meant I was pregnant then I didn’t mind.

I first felt Jacob move when I was 15 weeks pregnant, the best feeling in the world.

I was 21 weeks pregnant when I found out that my baby boy had died. The worst feeling in the world.

I had 2 days of bleeding in the middle of May, 2.5 weeks before he died. I hadn't had a spot of blood throughout the pregnancy and I was worried, but the bleeding wasn't heavy. Because my OB was out of town, I went to a hospital closer to my house where an ultrasound was done (on May 13th) and everything looked fine. I had the anatomy ultrasound done on May 17th and everything looked fine then too, except for his left foot. We were told that he probably had a club foot which could be corrected after birth. His right foot looked fine.

I went for a regular prenatal checkup on Monday, May 31, 2010. I had only gained a pound since my previous appointment on May 3rd and when my doctor felt my abdomen, she said I was measuring more like 19 weeks, which was strange because I knew I was 21 weeks. Then my nightmare began. She got the Doppler and tried to find Jacob’s heartbeat for 3 minutes. As the time went on, I felt the panic rising. I just stared at her face, then stared at the ceiling, then stared at her face again, willing his heart to beat and for her to find it. She found my pulse a few times and I felt a split second of hope that it was his, but I realized quickly that it wasn’t.

I remember it like it happened yesterday. I remember when she stopped looking and she slowly took the doppler off my belly and quietly said “I can’t find it”. It seems like it all happened in slow motion. I just nodded, unable to speak. She said that she can usually find the heartbeat at this stage of the pregnancy and that I needed an ultrasound right away and went to call the hospital. I started crying while she was out of the room. I just couldn't believe it. She came back in and said that they could see me right away and asked if I was okay to get to the hospital, which is across the street from her office. She also put her hand on my shoulder, which I thought was really nice. I liked that she felt badly for me, that I wasn’t just another patient that she has seen this happen to. She also suggested that I call my husband (I was at the appointment alone). I said that he was in Toronto (45 minutes away from her office), but that maybe I'd call my Mom since she lived nearby. Part of me knew Jacob was gone, but I didn't want to accept it and calling my husband made it more real.

I walked out of her office, avoiding eye contact with everyone. On the 2 minute walk to the hospital, I decided I needed to call my husband. I didn't want to worry him, but I knew he would be upset later when he found out that I was going through that and didn't call him (I imagined it all being a false alarm and telling him about it after when the ultrasound showed that everything was okay). I called and told him through my tears that the doctor couldn't find the baby's heartbeat, but also kept saying that he might be okay, maybe he is just in a weird position. I didn't really believe it myself, but I had a small glimmer of hope left. I just couldn't give up on my baby so easily. He said he would leave work to come, but I said to wait for the ultrasound, that it could be okay. I don't know why I did that, I guess I was in denial.

When I got to the hospital, I went to the prenatal clinic where they do the ultrasounds, assuming they would take me right away. However they were short one ultrasound technician that day and the one that was there was in the middle of someone else's scan, so I had to wait for 25 minutes, wondering whether or not my baby was alive or dead. They told me to wait in the waiting room, which is right between the maternity ward and Labour and Delivery. I couldn't stay in the waiting room because of the pregnant women and parents with the newborn that were in there so I stood in the hall, watching other peoples lives go on around me when my world was falling apart. All I kept seeing were pregnant women, parents taking their newborns into the breastfeeding clinic, a man come out of Labour and Delivery to tell his waiting family that they had a boy, and a Mom and Dad getting ready to take their newborn home. The whole time I just stood there and cried and cried. People stared, but I didn't care. I called my parents house and my Dad was home. I told him what was happening and he said he would come to the hospital, but I told him to wait because by the time he got there, I would probably be in the ultrasound room and he wouldn't be able to find me. My Mom wasn't home and I didn't get a chance to call her cell phone before I was called in for the ultrasound.

The ultrasound technician came out after her patient and had to do something before seeing me. She asked if I was okay or if I really had to go to the bathroom. I guess she didn't know why I was there. I just said I was okay, even though I wanted to scream that I thought my baby was dead and I needed an ultrasound to confirm it. Once I finally got in the room for the ultrasound, she looked over some paperwork and seemed to take forever to start the ultrasound. I just kept staring at the dark screen, remembering the ultrasound I had had in the same room 2 weeks before (the anatomy scan), Jacob had moved around so much that she had trouble getting the measurements. I was dreading what I would see this time. As soon as she started, I could see that he wasn't moving at all. He was curled up in a little ball and I could see his heart wasn't beating before she said it. I felt numb, shock and devastation all at the same time. She said that she didn't see any movement and couldn't see a heartbeat. She said she had to take the pictures to radiology right away to confirm and left me in the room. I called my husband, crying, and told him that it wasn't good and he said he was coming right away (I didn't know until hours later that I hadn't told him that our baby was dead - he came all the way from work not knowing what exactly was wrong). I called my Dad and told him that the baby had died and to come to the hospital. Then the ultrasound technician came back and said that they were taking me to Labour and Delivery and I think she said my doctor had been called. As the door to L & D opened, a woman was being pushed out in a wheelchair, holding her baby. I don't know how I even walked there, somehow I got one foot in front of the other.

I was shown into a room and I called my Mom on her cell phone. Amazingly she answered it right away (it is usually buried in her purse and she doesn't always hear it ring). I burst into tears and said that the baby is dead, that I was at the hospital and to come there right away. My nurse walked in the room while I was on the phone and heard me and saw that I was alone. She later told me how bad she felt for me then. She came back a few minutes later when I was sitting on the side of the bed crying and she sat beside me and gave me a huge hug, said how sorry she was and that she has had losses too (2 miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy - then 2 successful pregnancies after that). I really needed that hug right then. I changed into a hospital gown and my Mom got there when I was in the bathroom. I came out and we hugged and cried.

My doctor arrived and explained that the ultrasound confirmed that my baby had died sometime in the past week (they estimated this by his measurements). She brushed her fingers through my hair while I was lying in the bed and hugged me, which I really appreciated. It was so hard to believe, I thought I had felt him moving even that morning. She explained all of the signs that he had passed away that the ultrasound showed, aside from no heartbeat. She said I could either be induced then or I could go home first. I said that I didn’t want to go home, but I wanted another ultrasound first (I just had to see it again for myself) and that I wanted to wait for my husband to get there before the induction was started. She was understanding and went back to her office to continue seeing patients until he got there. My nurse came in with the radiology report and let us read it, which pointed out the signs and said there was "fetal demise". I just stared at those words. It was so clinical. It should have said “wonderful, perfect, sweet, very loved and wanted baby boy died”. She explained any other terms we weren’t familiar with. I thought it was really nice of her to show us that. My doctor came back to do the ultrasound about 45 minutes later and we could again see that he wasn't moving at all and had no heartbeat. She told me then that she has never not found a heartbeat at this stage of pregnancy and had it turn out well. I agreed to start the induction and the first set of misoprostol tablets were inserted at 3pm and then every 4 hours until 7am the next morning.

My Mom left to get me some things from her house since all I had was the shirt, skirt and sandals I was wearing that day (I really needed some socks, slippers and a camera to take pictures of the baby). When she was at home, she called my sisters and a friend of hers who called the church secretary, who then called our minister. Meanwhile, my Dad went to pick up my sister Laurie at the airport (she just came back from New York) and Jessie from the subway. Laurie and Jessie cried all the way to the hospital. My other sister Lindsay, who is living in New York for the summer, was called and started planning how she could come home. During all of this, we were deciding what to name him (we had 2 names we liked and thought we had 4 more months to decide) and whether we wanted him cremated or buried in a cemetery (we had him cremated and his ashes were buried in a small garden beside the church we were married in). Before my family came back, a social worker came in and we talked for awhile and she was comforting. I loved that she asked what Jacob's name was and then said it often. She also warned us that people wouldn't know what to say to us and they would often say things that were less than helpful. She was right, so it was good to have the warning. Then I thought the hospital minister was coming in, but my minister walked around the curtain. He stayed for about 45 minutes and provided us with a great deal of comfort. He came back twice the next day as well, shortly before I gave birth and just before I was about to leave the hospital.

The rest of my family started arriving. I could see that they had all been crying. Jessie got there first. She came in the room, lay down on the bed with me and I told her everything that happened and I found myself comforting her. Then Laurie arrived, after dropping her son off at home, and she lay on the bed with me and I went through the story again and started comforting her too. They started joking about this, that I was comforting them when I was going through this. I was a little numb at the time, I just felt bad that they felt bad and I had already been crying for hours. My Mom and Dad were back then too and they all stayed until 8:30 or 9pm, when I started getting really tired (it is amazing how tiring grief is), so they all left and asked that we call them before I went to sleep and when I was in active labour. The night seemed really long. I didn't realize how much my family was helping make the time pass faster in the afternoon until they left.

As soon as I got in the hospital bed until I gave birth, I almost always had a hand on my belly under the covers. I didn’t want to miss a second of being able to feel my belly while my baby was still inside.

I think I was having contractions even before I started getting induced. For 2-3 days before I found out that he had died, I had felt a different kind of movement, like his whole body was on the left or right side of my abdomen. I just figured that he was bigger now so I could really feel where he was. It only happened 3 times before I saw my doctor and didn't hurt at all. I asked her about that and she said she didn't know what it was, but she had heard other women say the same thing. I kept getting that feeling for hours after being admitted to the hospital and then it started getting painful. I also had lower back pain from shortly after the time the induction started until I had him.

I cried on and off throughout the day on Monday and after everyone but my husband left. I cried alot throughout the night, I guess I didn’t have anything to distract me from what was happening when it was just us. I was tired, but couldn't sleep. I was offered a relaxant to help, which did a little and I slept for an hour or so during the night. My husband told me the next day that he went in the bathroom at 2am and broke down in there so that I could sleep. He was so strong throughout it all.

The contractions got worse and worse over the night, but at first I wasn't anxious to have it finished because I wanted to keep my baby with me and hated the thought that he wouldn't be in me anymore. The nurses kept coming in to check my blood pressure and temperature and ask how bad the pain was and if I wanted anything for it, but I didn't at that point. I lay in the dark most of the night, just staring at the wall or at the red electrical outlet that was on the wall at the foot of my bed. I really focused on that for some reason. I could hear a big thunderstorm outside most of the night and thought it was appropriate. I went to the bathroom and felt something different and realized it was my mucus plug. My water broke sometime around 1am and the bleeding started. The room was freezing and I had to keep getting up to go to the bathroom and my legs were shaking alot. I had about 7 blankets on me by the morning. My doctor was on call that night and came in the middle of the night sometime to see how I was. I knew she had just delivered a baby because I had heard the odd scream and moan from the mother and then a baby crying. I was glad that baby lived.
Around 6am the pain became really bad. I didn't even realize I was in active labour until about 6:30am when it suddenly hit me that the contractions were really regular and we started timing them. Around 7am I asked for some pain medication and was given some morphine, which may have taken the edge off, but the pain was so bad at that time that I don't think it did anything except slow my thought processes. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have taken the morphine. During that time, the worst 3 hours of the pain, all I could think about was breathing. I couldn't answer any questions during a contraction, just breath and squeeze my husband's hand. Between contractions I would tell my husband that we had to do something nice after, like go somewhere nice for dinner. I was desperately trying to think of something to look forward to. Of course, after having Jacob, I didn’t want to leave the house for about 2 weeks. My minister came in and said a prayer with us. I don't remember what he said (something about keeping me safe during the delivery, help the doctor and nurses, give us comfort in the days to come), but I do remember holding his hand during a contraction and trying not to squeeze it. I also remember tears running down my face - both from the pain and from what he was saying. I don't even remember my doctor checking my cervix, I just remember her coming in and saying that I was ready. My husband later told me that she had checked it twice. I called work and said that I was having the baby and an IV was started with pitocin. My doctor discovered that he was breech and said that can sometimes cause complications (it didn’t) and that I just wasn't getting any breaks. I didn't feel any pressure, but she said to push and he came out in 2 pushes. She asked twice to make sure I wanted to hold him then she gave him to me while she worked on getting the placenta out. It was uncomfortable, but I was so busy looking at my baby, the baby I wanted so badly, that it didn't really register. I don't remember feeling the placenta coming out but I remember being told to push and I did. I am so glad that I remember the feeling of Jacob coming out.

As soon as he came out, she said that there were some amniotic bands. Now we know that it was likely an amniotic band that damaged his left leg below the knee and foot.

He came out with both eyes open, which I think is unusual for a baby at that stage. His right eye closed pretty quickly, probably because of the way I was holding him, but his left eye stayed open the whole time we had him. I never got to see both eyes open as I still had to deliver the placenta when they were open and I couldn't see his whole face since I was lying down. I feel like it was such a gift that we got to see his eyes, I will be forever grateful for that. It feels like we got to look into his soul.

We spent about 3 hours with him, just holding him, loving him, kissing him, giving him a bath, rocking him. There are so many other things that I wish I had done but didn’t think of at the time. I never wanted to let him go. My family arrived and there were alot of tears and everyone held him. I told him how much I love him and want him and will never forget him. We have a lot of pictures, but not enough. The nurse gave us a box that is for families of babies who have passed away. It included a tiny little hat, a blanket, a teddy bear, a measuring tape, a little sleeper and some baby oil and baby soap. They also gave us a “Recognition of Birth” certificate since we will never get a regular birth certificate (although I do have 4 death certificates – not sure why I need 4). My Mom brought in the blanket she had knit for him, but it was so big and I was scared his skin would get stuck to the wool since his skin seemed so delicate. My sister brought in a Peter Rabbit receiving blanket that her baby had used and we wrapped him in that (she picked that one because it was really soft and she said that “he could have adventures with Peter Rabbit”). I still have both blankets. I sleep with the blanket he was wrapped in every night.

I wanted to hold him all day, but we could see that his body was deteriorating and I wanted him to look as good as possible for my sister (who was flying in from New York and we were bringing her to the hospital that night to see him) and I didn't want his body to deteriorate too much for the autopsy. So we wrapped him up in the receiving blanket and the nurses put him in their fridge.

I was discharged at 1pm. My IV was removed and I got changed, bleeding all over the floor in the process. I cleaned it up myself. I didn't want my husband or the nurses to have to do it (my husband was upset when he realized why I kept asking him to pass me more paper towels around the curtain). It was so hard walking out of the hospital without Jacob. I got home, had a shower and immediately went on the internet and found an online support board for women who have had a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. I also got an email that day from the organizer of the prenatal classes that we were supposed to start that night, the same day my baby was born. I emailed back and said that we wouldn’t be attending since our baby died. I never heard back from them.

By the time my sister arrived and we got back to the hospital, it was about 8pm and I couldn’t wait to see Jacob again. I actually went up to the nurses desk, none of whom I knew from my stay, and said my name and "my baby is in your fridge". Afterwards I thought it odd that I worded it that way, but that is where he was and it just came out. They brought us to a private room where we spent 30 minutes with him. His body had deteriorated more, but I was so glad to see him again. We all held him again and we took some more pictures. I had some private time with him and told him again how much I love him, wanted him, would always miss him, would never forget him, that he would always be my first baby and he would never, ever be replaced.

It was so hard to hand him to the nurse for the last time, knowing that I would never hold him again. Then I had to leave the hospital without him again.

I have relived the day that I found out he died and the day he was born over and over and over again. I asked my family to write their memories of those 2 days and I have loved reading about it from their perspective.
We don't know why he died. All of my bloodwork came back normal - no clotting disorder, no infection and his chromosomes were normal. There was evidence of abruption, but the autopsy report wasn't back when I went for my 6 week post-partum checkup, so we are still waiting. We may never know, but our best guess right now is that an amniotic band wrapped around the umbilical cord. I just hope that he didn't have any pain.

In the week after losing him, I went to both hospitals where I had an ultrasound and they both gave me a CD of all of the pictures that were taken. I only have one video of one ultrasound, the one that confirmed that he had died. I have watched it a few times….no movement, no heartbeat, just my precious baby. I really wish that I had a video of when he was alive, I’m scared I will forget the sight of him moving, of waving his arms around, of stretching his legs, of flipping from side to side, of swallowing and moving his hand near his face (he may have been sucking his thumb).
I still have moments when I can't believe he is gone. I like to think that he is in a better place and I know that all he ever knew of life on earth is love, but I just wish our baby that we wanted so badly could have stayed with us. It just isn't fair, it is unfair that this happens to anyone. I don’t really ask ‘why me’. Why not me? But I do ask ‘why him?’ - maybe it is the same thing. I just hope he didn't suffer and knew/knows how much we love him, how many other people love him, were so excited about him and how many lives he has touched.

It gives me some comfort to know that Jacob knew only love. I loved him from the second I suspected I was pregnant. I did everything right, everything I could, for him. He died while being cradled in my body.

I blamed myself of course, and sometimes I still do, but deep down I know that I couldn't have done anything to save him and that it wasn't my fault. Amniotic band syndrome is rare. My family doctor has worked for about 40 years and has never seen a case. No one seems to know what causes it. It gives me some comfort to know that he was a healthy little boy, but something happened in my body that hurt him. That also brings me a lot of pain. There is nothing else to blame but my body.

My life is divided into 2 parts – before Jacob and after Jacob. I will never be the same person that I was before losing my baby.

The grief has been terrible. The pain is unbearable at times and I don’t know how I have gotten this far since losing him. The pain never goes away, but it gets a little easier to live with. I have smiled and laughed since losing him. Not a lot, and the laughter often turns into tears, but it has happened and it gives me hope that it will happen more often. I know that Jacob would not want us to live with the terrible grief and despair forever.

We will always miss him, there will always be a hole within my soul for my baby boy that no one can ever fill. He will always be missing from family pictures, vacations, holidays and every day life. It seems hard to believe that we can enjoy those things again when he isn’t with us, but I know from reading other baby loss mama’s blogs and several books that you can find happiness again after losing your baby. There may always be a slight sadness in the happiness, but life does go on and we won’t always feel this way.

We have been given the okay to start trying again. We desperately want to have another baby, but will never forget Jacob. He will always be a part of our lives and a piece of me will always be missing.


Sophie said...

Dana, I am so sorry about Jacob. I just wanted you to know that I have read your family's story, that I am thinking of sweet baby Jacob and I wish you all the best in the future. xx

Linda Anderson said...

Hi Sweetheart,
How are u doing honey?I got your email on BBC.I will write u when im done here.Thank u for giving me this blog.My heart is hurting for each one of these sweet ladies.I think of u and Jacob daily.As i light his candle every night.I say a prayer for u.Know i am always here for u.I hold u and Jacob very close to my heart.I send u many loving hugs always.Linda (angel mom of 4)

roxyttandme said...

I also lost a baby to ABS. Her name is Haleigh. I am so sorry you lost Jacob. I just read your story for the second time, and cried my eyes out. I can relate to so much of it. One thing you wrote in particular really struck a cord with me. "My life is divided into 2 parts – before Jacob and after Jacob." I feel the same way about Haleigh. I miss her every minute of every day. I just want my baby back. I know that you feel the same.

There are very few of us ABS cases out there. If you would ever like to talk- I would love to. It is comforting to know that I am not alone.

Much Love,

Haleigh's Mom

Christine Cosentino said...

I am in complete admiration of the bravery it took to share your story so completely. I lost my Emma last May but like you, I am grateful that she only every knew love in her very brief life, like your Jacob. I wish you the very best :)

Brooke said...

THanks for writing out your story! I know that feeling....before your baby and after....it is so tough...but i loved reading your story. i miss my little man every day! Reading about other people reminds me that I am not alone.

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