Monday, September 20, 2010

Mom to Grace Olivia 
Born still on March 19, 2005
Gilbert, Arizona

The Beginning:

Carlos and I met in California and dated for 9-1/2 years before he finally proposed. The whole time we dated we lived 120 miles apart. There were several times I almost gave up hope on us living in the same city let alone getting married but I hung in there because I knew he was the “one” for me. 10 years, 3 months and 1 day after we met, we were married. It was the most beautiful, happy day of my life. The week after we got married we moved across the country for his graduate school.

We had decided long before we were even engaged that we would wait two years before we started a family so that we could spend some time getting used to each other. I know that sounds strange because we dated for 10 years before we got married but we had never even lived in the same city so we thought we would need an adjustment period.

After Graduate School:

After Carlos graduated with his MBA, we decided to move back to California to be closer to our families and so we could start a family of our own. We moved back in June and both of us started looking for jobs. My parents were kind enough to let us move in with them so that we had a place to stay until we found jobs and could get a place of our own.

A month after we moved back Carlos was offered and accepted a job in Phoenix. It wasn’t California but it was close enough to our families, the pay was right, and we could afford to buy a house and start our family.

Grace’s Story:

Trying To Conceive:

We had seen several people in our circle try to conceive and knew that it wasn’t that easy. We went in with the belief…if it happens, it happens, if not, that is okay, we will adopt. We honestly did not think it would happen the first time trying and thought we would give it a year. Well to our surprise and happiness we got pregnant the first month trying. We moved to Phoenix on August 9th, as we were getting on the freeway to leave California I told Carlos that I was two days late. We were excited at the thought of having a baby and spent almost the whole entire drive to Phoenix talking about a baby and trying to think of boy names because we already had a girl name. That night when we arrived in Phoenix we went to Target to get some things for the house and a home pregnancy test.

Taking the Test:

We went to bed that night but neither of us really slept because we were so anxious for me to take the test. Finally at about five in the morning I couldn’t stand it any longer and I had to go to the bathroom so I grabbed the test and went in to the bathroom. After I took the test I put it down and walked back in to the bedroom. We waited for what seemed like the longest five minutes of our lives and then went back in to the bathroom to see what the test said. It said “Pregnant”. We were so happy, we hugged each other, kissed, and kept saying “we’re gonna have a baby”. I think we both got teary eyed too. Later on that day we went to the bookstore and bought “Pregnancy for Dummies” and “The Expectant Father”. Our lives were changed forever.

We decided not to tell anyone until I went to the doctor and had the pregnancy confirmed. I spent a whole week looking for a doctor for the baby and me. Finally, I found one and called the office. They said for a pregnancy test I could come in that day. I went in by myself because Carlos had just started his job a few days before and was in meetings and training all day. The doctor’s office confirmed the pregnancy and gave me an EDD of April 13th. As soon as I got home from the doctor’s office I called Carlos and shared the news with him. I could hear the smile in his voice. We decided to tell our parents in person so we would have to wait until we went home the last week in August. Talk about hard. I talked to my mom, my sister, and my dad several times during those few weeks. I was dying to tell them but we had made a decision and we were going to stick with it.

Telling Our Families and Friends:

Finally, we were going back to California for the weekend for a friend’s party. We were so excited to tell our parents they were going to be grandparents (the fifth grandchild for my parents and the first for Carlos’ parents). We left on a Friday evening after Carlos got off work and didn’t arrive at my parents until midnight. I hardly slept that night because I was so anxious to tell our families. The next morning I woke when I heard my dad leaving to go play golf and I knew we would have to wait even longer because we wanted to tell him and my mom together. He finally came home from golf and joined us in my mom’s office where we were all chatting. I said “We were wondering if you guys would like to come visit us in April.” My mom said “Why in April?” I said “Because that is when the baby will be here.” They both said “BABY!?” We said “Yes, we’re pregnant.” They were so happy and we all had tears of joy in our eyes. After we were done telling my family we drove up to Carlos’ parents’ house. We were there for half an hour before Carlos was finally able to gather everybody in to the kitchen. Then he asked his parents the same question we asked mine… “We were wondering if you guys would like to come visit us in April.” They asked what was happening in April and Carlos told them that we were going to have a baby. They were very excited to be grandparents.
At this point I was only about seven and a half weeks along and we waited to tell the rest of our friends until I was 12 weeks. I sent out an e-mail to my friends and Carlos called most of his and then sent an e-mail to the rest.

The First Check-Up:

I had my first check-up at about nine weeks. This appointment was with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) because the doctor did not have any availability on that specific date and time. She thought I seemed a little big for my due date so she ordered an ultrasound to determine the size and date for the baby. Carlos and I were so excited because we knew that most of the time you don’t get an ultrasound until 18-20 weeks and we were anxious to see our little person.

The First Ultrasound:

We went for our first ultrasound when I was about 10 weeks along. The due date only changed by two days so the doctor kept our due date as the 13th. We got to see the baby move and the heartbeat. We were both moved to tears.

A Scare:

The second weekend in October we drove up to Flagstaff to see the fall foliage. It took us about six hours to get there. When we arrived we checked in to our hotel and then went to the Arboretum. We walked around the Arboretum and then I went to the restroom. I noticed that I was spotting. I came out of the restroom and told Carlos that I was spotting. He could tell right away that I was frightened and tried to calm me down. We decided to leave and go to the bookstore because I had left my pregnancy books at home. Everything had gone so smoothly, no morning sickness or anything that I didn’t even think about bringing the books with me. At the bookstore we went through several different books and they made me more frightened so we left and went back to the hotel room and I called the doctor. She asked me some questions and was very reassuring. She said that it was probably nothing to be too concerned about and that if I continued to spot over the next 24-48 hours or if the spotting changed color or increased to call back. The next morning I was still spotting and getting more and more panicked so we left for home. That night we went to mass and I cried and prayed for our baby.

Monday morning I was still spotting so I called the doctor’s office and they had me come in for a check-up with the CNM. Usually the first thing they had me do was give them a urine sample but someone was in the restroom so the nurse put me in the exam room. She had me lie down so that she could use the Doppler to find the baby’s heartbeat. She moved the Doppler all around but was having difficulty finding the heartbeat. Carlos and I just looked at each other in panic. I asked if having a full bladder would make it difficult to find it and she said probably. So she looked and the bathroom was empty so I went to do my urine sample. When I came back in and laid on the table the Doppler picked up the heartbeat right away. We were so relieved. The CNM came in and did an exam. She said that my cervix was bleeding a little bit and scheduled me for another ultrasound to see if they could find a reason for it. That evening I went to the hospital for our second ultrasound. The baby was moving a lot and the heartbeat was fine. The radiology technician said that it appeared that I had a low-lying placenta but the radiologist and doctor would have to read it and confirm. She said the doctor would probably get back to me the next day.

We waited all day Tuesday and the doctor’s office did not call. Wednesday afternoon we still had not heard anything so Carlos called the doctor’s office because I was a basket case. The doctor’s office still had not received the report so they said they would call me as soon as they received it. Thursday afternoon we still had not heard anything so we called again; they still had not received the report. I called on Friday afternoon and the nurse said they had just received the report, she put me on hold and then came back on the line and said that I did have a low-lying placenta. I was put on restrictive activity until at least my 20-week ultrasound.

The 20-Week Ultrasound:

On the Monday before Thanksgiving we went in for the 20-week ultrasound. We had decided when we first found out that I was pregnant that we were not going to find out the gender of the baby. When we walked in to the examining room the first thing we told the radiologist was that we did not want to know the gender. She said okay and that she would not put the gender on the doctor’s report either, that way the doctor would not slip and tell us. Then she started the ultrasound. She asked us what we thought we were having and we said a boy. All she said was “interesting” and said that couples usually guessed it right about 80-90% of the time. She showed us everything except for the gender exposing part of the baby. We even got to see our little person in 3D. It was amazing; we could tell the baby had daddy’s feet, my nose, daddy’s mouth, and my chin. The best part was the baby was holding their left hand up by their face with the index finger up as if he/she were saying “I’m #1”. Everything was perfect. We couldn’t wait to take the ultrasound pictures home with us for Thanksgiving to show everyone.

Another Ultrasound:

In January I started to have localized pain on the upper left side of my belly, the baby usually hung out on the right side. The pain was not constant but it was in the same spot at about the same time everyday, usually during dinnertime. When I went in for my appointment at the end of January I mentioned it to my doctor. She was not overly concerned but sent me for another ultrasound just to make sure everything was okay. I went in for my fourth ultrasound on February 1st. The radiologist checked everything and could not find a cause for the pain so said it was most likely ligament pain. Everything still looked perfect.

The Final Stretch:

As I mentioned before we had chosen a girl name long before we were married, Grace. The boy name did not come so easily but we finally decided on Nicholas. The reason I had chosen Grace was because of the song “Amazing Grace”. It had always been one of my favorite songs and the words meant a lot to me. I also liked Grace’s meaning, blessing from God. I suggested Nicholas because it meant victorious. After we chose the first names it was time to choose middle names. Again the girl’s name came easily, Olivia, meaning peace. And again we had trouble with a boy’s name and could not decide.
In the last couple of months the baby was quite active especially at night when I would start to drift off to sleep. Carlos would stay up for an hour or more after I dozed off with his hand on my belly just to feel the baby move. He was always so excited in the morning to tell me how the baby was kicking up a storm. He kept saying how they were going to be the next Pele or Mia Hamm. I also noticed the baby was hiccupping a lot more too. It was so nice to just put my hand on my belly and feel him/her moving and hiccupping.

The Last Appointment:

I went in for my 36-week checkup on March 15th. The nurse came in and put the Doppler on my stomach to listen to the heartbeat. She found the baby’s heartbeat (152), but it was very faint. She said it was due to the positioning of the baby so I did not think anything of it. My doctor was called to the hospital to do an emergency cesarean so I had one of the other doctors from the practice come in and check my cervix. He said that I had not started dilating and that everything looked fine. He then asked me if I had been given a kick chart, I said no so he gave me one. He explained that they like to have you fill out a kick chart during the last few weeks of the pregnancy to monitor the baby’s movement. Carlos had been unable to go to the doctor’s appointment with me so when I got home from the appointment I called him. I told him how the appointment went and that the doctor gave me a kick chart. He asked why and I told him but we were both a little frightened by it. That night I started filling out the chart.

The Final Day:

On Thursday, March 17th, I went to lunch with my friend. After lunch we went over to see our new house, which we had just closed on the day before, and then we sat and talked for a while. After she left I just kind of hung out and then cooked dinner. At about 9:00 pm I monitored the baby’s movement, 10 kicks in about 10 minutes. I went upstairs, got ready for bed and watched ER. Right before I turned off the TV to go to sleep I felt the baby move. I went to sleep.

The Worst Day of Our Lives:

I woke up Friday morning, March 18th, at about 5:30 am to see Carlos off to work (he went to the gym before he went to work) and then I went back up to bed. I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I just lay there waiting to feel the baby move. At about 7:00 am I got up and ate breakfast, that usually got the baby moving but there was nothing. I drank a glass of orange juice, then a glass of cold water, nothing. I played classical music, still nothing. I even shook my belly. Finally, after three hours of trying to get the baby to move I called the doctor. They told me to go straight to the hospital. I tried to call Carlos but he was in a meeting so I left him a message and headed for the hospital. I kept telling myself that it was okay. On the way to the hospital I hit a bird that flew in front of the car. It was then that I knew that everything was not okay. Carlos called me on the way to the hospital and said that he would meet me there.
About five minutes after I arrived at the hospital I was taken back to L&D triage. Carlos walked in just as they were checking me in. They took us back to a curtained room and started trying to find a heartbeat with the fetal heart monitor. After about ten minutes and two separate nurses they could not find a heartbeat with the fetal monitor so they sent us for an ultrasound. During the ultrasound I could not see the screen but Carlos was standing at the end of the bed where he could see the screen. He was rubbing my feet and trying to look reassuring. The radiology technician called one of the other techs and the triage nurse over to see if they could see anything. They all just got really quiet but did not say anything to us. When they were done the triage nurse wheeled me out of radiology. In the hallway she stopped and told us that she was not supposed to tell us this but she did not want us to have to wait for the doctor, she said the ultrasound determined there was no heartbeat. Carlos asked, “What does that mean?” I said that we had lost the baby. We were both devastated and in shock. She said they were going to admit me and she was taking us over to labor and delivery.
The nurse then took us through the waiting room in to the birthing center. There was a whole family waiting there and just then a new father came out to tell them his wife just delivered their baby. As the nurse was getting ready to wheel me through the double doors Carlos broke down and cried. Somehow the nurse managed to get us to our room. There were two nurses waiting for us. They helped me get in to my gown and settled in to bed. They told us how sorry they were for our loss and that the doctor was on his way. My doctor had just started her vacation so it was the doctor who had seen me at my last appointment. The nurse said that he would probably want to induce me since I had not yet started dilating.
As soon as the doctor arrived we asked him if there was any way that we could bypass the labor and delivery (and the inevitable) and just have a c-section. He said no because they would prefer that you try to deliver vaginally instead of performing major surgery. He said he knew it would be difficult but it was better for me health wise if I delivered vaginally. We also asked him if they knew why our baby had died. He said not yet, that it could have been the umbilical cord but they would not know anything until after the delivery. After he left, the nurse gave me medication to induce my labor and left us a folder with reading materials regarding stillbirth and losing a child.
As soon as we were alone in the room we began the task of notifying our families. First I tried to call my mom but she was not home and did not answer her cell phone. I did not leave a message because how do you leave a message like that on a machine. I then called my dad. When he picked up the phone I could barely muster up a hello. He asked what was wrong and I told him that we had lost the baby. He said “What…oh no. What happened?” You could hear the sadness through the phone. I told him that we did not know yet but there was no longer a heartbeat. I told him the rest of what was going on and he said he would get a hold of my mom. A few minutes later my mom called and she was crying. She said she was at a doctors’ appointment but that when she was done she would go home, pack some things and drive over. Next I called my sister and then my best friend. While I was on the phone with them Carlos called his family to tell them. A few minutes after I got off the phone with my best friend she called me back. She said she didn’t know how to say this or if we had even thought about it yet. She had read an article a few weeks before in one of her parenting magazines about stillbirth. In the article they had mentioned seeing, holding, and photographing the baby. I told her that we hadn’t thought about it but thank you for suggesting it. When I got off the phone with her I told Carlos. We both said we weren’t sure if we could do it but we would think about it. A few minutes later the nurses came back in and mentioned it to us as well. We told them we needed time to discuss it further. They also asked us if we wanted to have an autopsy or genetic testing performed on the baby. We told them we wanted to find out if it was the cord before we made any decisions about an autopsy.
A couple of hours later my mom called me to tell me that my dad had gotten off work and they were both coming out to be with us. Carlos’ parents were on their way too. On Friday night my sister called to tell me she was flying out here the next morning. Our families would be here to support us.

Labor and Delivery:

I began contractions and dilation sometime Friday night. On Saturday morning my contractions became quite strong and were coming very close together, I was at 3cm, so I got an epidural. After that I started to dilate normally and made it to 6cm by noon but then my contractions never regulated and I stopped dilating. At about 8:00pm the doctor determined I was still at 6cm, the baby still had not descended, and that I would need a c-section. I was then prepped for surgery and taken in to the operating room. As they were moving me from the gurney to the operating table one of the scrub nurses said to me “don’t be so frightened this surgery has a good outcome.” I realized he had not been told about our baby and I said “Not this one.” Then one of my nurses took him aside and told him that it was a stillbirth. The doctor arrived shortly after that and started the c-section. He said that I would feel a little pressure. I couldn’t feel any pain but I could feel him moving my organs aside and pulling out the baby. When he pulled out the baby he said, “It’s a girl and the cord is very tightly wrapped around her neck.” I think he even said it was around there more than once.
Our little Grace Olivia was silently born at 9:39 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, 2005 (36wks 3days gestation). She weighed 5lbs 14oz and was 19-1/2in long. Everything about Grace was normal and healthy.

After The Delivery:

We trust that the cause of death was the umbilical cord and decided not to have an autopsy or genetic testing. We are one of the lucky few that know the cause of death, most do not, but it does not make it any easier knowing because this is not something that can easily be prevented from happening again.
In retrospect, I am glad they did not perform the c-section when we first requested because it gave me more time to be with her and to make the right decisions for us to say goodbye. We had our favorite priest from church come to be with us after the delivery. He prayed with us and blessed Grace. We decided to and were able to see and hold Grace anytime that we wanted during my hospital stay. Both of her Grandmothers were able to hold her. We took several photographs of her and are happy that we have those memories to cherish forever.
Grace is our beautiful angel baby. She is a perfect mix of Carlos and me. She has her dad’s mouth and feet and my nose and chin.
We had a prayer service and viewing 11 days after Grace was born, on March 28, 2005, the day after Easter. My mom, best friend, Carlos’ mom and sisters were there. After the service was over we held Grace for a long time. As we were holding her I could feel her spiritual presence with us. After holding her for almost an hour, I heard her tell me that it was okay to say goodbye. I told Carlos and we hugged her, kissed her, laid her back down and said goodbye to our angel that we will only be able to see in our minds and photographs until the day she greets us in heaven.

We now have two living children, Gabbie born screaming in October 2006 and Jeremy born screaming in May 2009. They both know all about their big sister, Grace.

Andrea can be contacted at


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