Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mom to Caleb Anthony
Born too early on April 12th, 2010
Omaha, NE

I've always wanted to be a mother. When I was little, I used to get in trouble for "mothering" my little sisters and brother too much. Other kids wanted to be astronauts, or police officers, or firemen...I wanted to be a mom.

When I met my husband, he didn't want kids. After several years of dating, he came around to the side that he okay with kids. We got married in October 2008. He became more and more comfortable with the idea of a baby, and I managed to convince him to start trying in the spring of 2010. A little after that, we discovered that we were getting the chance to go to Italy in October 2009, and somehow we decided to start trying while on our trip. I still remember the time when I turned to him in bed, and said, " wouldn't want to work on it in Italy, would you?" His response of "Sure" made my jaw drop. I said, "Um, you know what I mean by working on it, right? You know what I'm talking about?" He laughed and said "Yes, I know." SQUEAL! We were off!

We didn't get pregnant in Italy, but I found out I was pregnant on December 29, 2009. I told Chris by putting a picture of the positive test inside a video game case. We were both beyond excited.

My excitement soon took a downward turn when at 6 weeks, I experienced a stabbing pain in my side. Since I hadn't had my first doctor appointment yet, the midwife we were seeing advised us to go to the ER just to be sure. The doctor there examined me and saw some blood around the cervix, and told me I was probably miscarrying. I was devastated. They did an ultrasound, and after a few minutes I saw the flickering of our little jelly bean's heartbeat.

It was fairly uneventful after that. I continued to have bleeding off and on, but the baby's heartbeat continued to be strong and our NT scan was perfect. Everything was looking great. We told our families on Valentine's Day, and they were ecstatic and so excited.

We scheduled the BIG ultrasound for April 20.

On April 5, I went to the bathroom and felt something like a balloon pop, and a gush of red water came out. I was terrified. Chris convinced me to look for the heartbeat with our home doppler, and I was able to find it. That reassured me a bit, so I waited until the morning to call the midwive's office. They got me in right away, did the ferning test, and told me that it wasn't my water breaking and to just take it easy. But the continued bleeding was worrying the doctor. She moved my ultrasound up from the 20th to the 9th.

I wouldn't make it that far. In the early hours of April 7th, when I was 18w5d pregnant, I woke up in the middle of the night to water gushing. I found the heartbeat with the doppler again, but I couldn't contain my fears this time, so we went to the ER. Once there, I passed a huge blood clot (larger than a golf ball) and kept bleeding. They did an ultrasound. I was able to see the screen during it, and I knew my baby was in trouble. There was no black surrounding him (though we didn't know it was a him yet). The doctor told us that I had zero fluid left and that I should be induced. I texted my family and best friends that we were losing the baby. I couldn't stop crying. Eventually a second doctor - an MFM - came and talked to us. She was more optimistic but still presented the grim facts: only 1-2% of babies in this situation make it. She ran over our options with us, and we decided to wait it out. If I could make it to 24 weeks without delivering, the baby would have a chance. I would be admitted to the hospital with the goal of making it 48 hours, and then I would be discharged and on strict bedrest at home until I reached 24 weeks or delivered. At 24 weeks, I'd be readmitted to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy.

I was in the hospital for 72 hours. I had a constant IV drip of antibiotics and saline. I had an additional ultrasound, which showed my fluids at a 1.5 (normal is 8+). I was ecstatic - up from last time! When I'd passed 48 hours without delivering, they started to be a bit more optimistic and began prepping me for the hopefully long road ahead. The NICU team came and talked to us about what we could expect with a 24-weeker just in case we made it. The nurses were all confident that I'd be back once I reached that milestone.

Once home, I spent all my time researching supplements and foods to help keep infection at bay - my biggest adversary. I taped up mantras all over the wall, like "My baby will grow healthy and strong" and "My amniotic sac will reseal and replenish." Chris was absolutely amazing. He was by my side 24/7 and stocked the house with everything I'd need. He moved his beloved recliner from his computer room to the living room so I could use it. Friends and family visited, and all were greeted with hand sanitizer. I washed my hands constantly, I drank tons of water, I barely moved. I was confident that no infection would come near.

Sunday I'd been feeling kind of crampy but blamed it on gas. I was barely able to eat, and went to lie down. After a little while, I realized that the pains seemed to be coming in waves, regularly. It was a low pain, at my bikini line, so I still wasn't convinced it was contractions. My uterus, to the touch, still felt soft and relaxed. I listened to my new Hypnobabies track called "Baby Stay In," and that seemed to help a bit, but didn't stop it. Chris was worried, and as they started to get more painful, we timed them. I knew the second I looked at the timer and they were 3 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds each that this was it. I called the nurse's line at the L&D unit and left a message, but before they'd even called back, I'd made the decision that we needed to go in.

As we were driving there, the nurse called back and told us we were doing the right thing. We entered through the ER, and I was immediately put in a wheelchair and taken up to L&D. The contractions were coming harder and longer. The nurse checked the baby's heartbeat, and it was still there, pounding away strongly. Chris called my mom to come up to the hospital.

The doctor checked me out and said I was a fingertip dilated. I passed another large blood clot as I was being examined. He gave us some grim statistics and possibilities if the vaginal birth didn't go well, from needing a D&C to an emergency C-section with a vertical incision (which would mean that I would always have to have C-sections from then on) to blood transfusions. Chris was terrified at that point. They gave me Cytotec to dilate my cervix further and said they'd check me again in four hours. At this point I was expecting this to take a long time. It was about 11pm.

Our anesthesiologist came in to do the epidural. I'd originally wanted a natural, relaxed birth, but I couldn't wrap my head around going through the pain of labor and childbirth without that prize at the end. He had me sit up and lean over, and as he started to insert the catheter, I started throwing up. It took forever, through more contractions and more vomiting, before the epidural was finally in place. I waited for it to take effect, and it did...on one side. My left leg was a bit tingly, but my right leg felt exactly the same. They tried increasing the dosage but it was the same result: I could feel on the right. He had me lay on my right side to try to use gravity to get the epidural going, and adjusted the catheter a few times. FINALLY it started to take effect on both sides...but they'd had to use so much of it that my legs were completely dead. I couldn't move them at all or feel anything from toes to waist. I threw up again. I'd also started to shiver uncontrollably, and that lasted for hours.

I went a few minutes without being able to feel any contractions, but very shortly, I started feeling them again lightly. Almost immediately after that, I felt something slip between my legs. It felt virtually identical to the passing of blood clots that I had previously experienced. I called the nurse to let her know that I'd passed a clot or something. In back of my head it occurred to me that it might be the baby, but I didn't really think it would be. When the nurse got there, though, she lifted the sheet and confirmed, "It's the baby." It was 1:55am on Monday, April 12. I was 19w3d pregnant.

At that point, I started sobbing and buried my head in Chris's shoulder and said over and over, "I can't do this. I don't want to do this." He held me and told me I could, that I had to, that I WAS. I felt the rest of the baby slip out and called out to the nurse that he was all the way out (she'd been calling the doctor, letting him know that I had half-delivered). And then I felt him move against me. I remember crying out, "I can feel it move!!" The nurse gently said yes, he was alive. The doctor arrived and asked me to lift my leg but I couldn't due to the epidural, so my mom came over and helped hold my left leg up. They completed the delivery, and the nurse announced that it was a boy.

Through tears I asked my mom how he looked, and she said he was tiny but perfect. As the doctor wrapped up the placenta and took it away, the nurse brought the baby over. She put a tiny little hat on him and handed him to me. I was surprised I could actually feel his weight; I'd been expecting him to be feather light. He was alive. I felt him moving slightly. His eyes were still fused shut and he had an adorable profile with a little ski jump nose. His hands were perfect; his fingers sooooo long and slender. He had the most insanely tiny fingernails.

My mom held him for a moment while they helped me move into a more comfortable position and cooed at him. I will always love the memory of her holding him in her hands, rocking him side to side, whispering to him that we loved him and that he was so sweet.

Chris wasn't able to hold him...he just couldn't do it. I don't blame him. But I will forever mourn the fact that we didn't get to examine a perfect newborn together, our first child, counting fingers and toes, deciding who he looked more like, trying out his name to see if it fit.

At some point I asked the nurse to check to see if he'd passed away, and she'd confirmed that he had. We said our goodbyes so that the nurse could get him weighed and cleaned up and take hand and footprints. We waited for the hospital chaplain to arrive to do a blessing.

The anesthesiologist came back to see how I was doing. He walked in, bright and cheery, and exclaimed "Congratulations!" Before I had time to register it, he realized what he'd said and literally ran out of the room. He came back a few moments later, repeated his congratulations in a more muted tone, and checked on me. He let me know he'd be in to remove the catheter shortly. When he came back, he looked around and said, "Where's your baby??," clearly having forgotten again who we were and what our situation was, despite the "dead baby" secret sign on the door (a green leaf). He again realized what he'd said and mumbled something to cover. It was horrible.

Finally, the chaplain arrived. They brought Caleb back out, in a "real" baby blanket, and handed him to me. He was still warm. The chaplain led us in a blessing/naming ceremony. We said our final goodbyes after the ceremony, and shortly after that my mom left. She'd been there all night, and it was now almost five in the morning.

About 12 hours later, we left the hospital without our baby.

We have no idea why any of this happened. The doctor suspects placental abruption, but the pathology came back with no sign of that. His autopsy was also perfect. I had the RPL panel run, and everything came back normal, as did an HSG. We're getting ready to start trying to conceive again, and I'm absolutely terrified. I hate trying to classify my loss. He was born alive, so was it really a miscarriage? It wasn't a still birth because of that. But he couldn't survive, so was it really infant loss? I never know what to say happened to me.


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