Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Samantha
Mom to Leo Allen
Stillborn August 7th, 2005
Minnesota

My husband and I had been married 2 years when we found ourselves at a crossroads. We were far along in the process to become Peace Corps Volunteers, when an opportunity for a job came up that fit him perfectly. He applied and interviewed, and we decided that if he didn’t get the job, we’d go forward with the Peace Corps. If he did get the job, we’d stay and start a family. I was never the type to think about babies, but at this point, my maternal longing was kicking in big time. The Peace Corps was a long- time goal of mine, but the urge for a baby was growing. He got the job. We stayed, and I got pregnant right away. I remember taking three pregnancy tests in a row and showing him, my hands shaking. We went out for ice cream to celebrate.
 
We couldn’t keep it a secret, we were so excited to tell our families. I was so happy. Had some morning sickness, an aversion to chicken, and cravings for green olives. It was bliss. Each appointment we heard the heartbeat, I was so relieved. It was like I thought if the heart was beating, everything was fine. I was so na├»ve and so innocent to what really could go wrong. Our 9-week ultrasound to date the pregnancy looked perfect. We could see the heart beating strongly and the baby moving around. And life went on, full of plans and hopes.

We went in for our “big” ultrasound, the one where we intended to find out the sex. Looking back on it now, I feel a little foolish. That was my biggest concern. Like I said, I had no idea. We went in, and the ultrasound technician started looking at the baby. I joked with her, asking if the baby was cute. She had no response to my joke, which was my first sign that something wasn’t quite right. I should have know something wasn't right because the technician was really quiet, and she moved the screen away so we couldn't see it. When we talked to her, she would barely answer and she looked for a long time. During our first ultrasound at 9 weeks, they showed us the screen right away. Then she said something about "checking my ovaries," which I know they do during an ultrasound, but she was taking so long. Then she left the room for a loooooong time. My husband and I had no idea what was going on. Immediately we started trying to justify what was happening. Was she just the one checking out the ovaries and placenta?  Maybe someone else comes in to look at the baby? It was terrifying.

When she finally came back in after awhile with a doctor, I knew for sure something wasn't right. He said it looked like there were cysts or pockets of fluid either in or on the baby's abdomen, but they just didn't know because it wasn't their expertise. They sent us over to the clinic to see our midwife, and she said we had to schedule a level 2 ultrasound with the perinatal specialist. She told us we don't know anything yet, so try not to get too worked up. That was a scary night. We just locked ourselves in and didn't answer the phone and sang and talked to our baby. He was really moving a lot. I kept begging and pleading with God to let my baby be okay, I’ll do anything, just let my sweet baby be okay.

The next day we went back to the clinic to see the specialist. He was nice, but very systematic, which was helpful. As he performed the ultrasound, he showed us what he saw. The news was bad. He said it wasn't cysts, those pockets of fluid were the baby's belly and bladder. And the fluid was amniotic fluid.  Apparently our baby had a blocked urethra and couldn't pass the fluid back out, so since our baby couldn't pass it out, he had just been swallowing it from the beginning, so his lungs hadn't even started to form and never would form without the fluid. The doctor said that no baby has ever lived with this condition, and they have attempted surgeries to save the baby, but they weren't that successful and the babies weren't as far along as ours.  Like many stories on here, he compared it to “lightening striking.” There wasn’t anything I could have done to prevent it, no vitamin I missed, nothing I did at all, “just one of those things,"they kept telling us.  Some cells just didn't split right. The scariest thing was that it couldn't have been detected earlier. We had no idea. The heartbeat was always really strong at my appointments. We thought we were safe 'cause we made it past the first three months.

After we got that news, we were given three options. Go on with the pregnancy until the baby dies (he would not have made it to term- his belly was already bigger than he was, he had to have been in pain), do a D & E and take the baby out (which just the thought of killed me), or what we ultimately decided, to induce labor and deliver the baby. No decision was easy. They were all lousy choices. What we wanted was our baby to live. But we decided the last one because I wanted to see and hold my baby and I wanted to give birth to him and make his suffering stop.

We went into the hospital on Friday at 4:00pm. My midwife was there, but the procedure had to be done by an Obstetrician, who we had met the day before. So they gave us a private room, and the nurses were all very nice. They gave me cytotec (sp) a drug used to induce labor. My midwife stayed by my side practically the whole time and was wonderful. Nothing much happened Friday night except I had crazy hallucinations because of the sleeping pills they gave me. Saturday went slowly, I kept getting doses of the cytotec every four hours and they thought maybe I was contracting on my own, so they skipped a dose and everything stopped. Saturday afternoon the contractions were starting to get more intense and I labored pretty hard until late in the night, when they finally convinced me to have some morphine so I could sleep. Late Saturday, my midwife checked to see how dilated I was and it was only 2 centimeters, which was the same as I was on Saturday morning. I was really discouraged because those contractions were really hard and I worked so hard to get through them! Sunday they put the cytotec directly on my cervix to soften it. Sunday evening the contractions started to get stronger and stronger and I was so exhausted and drained, emotionally and physically.
 
Around 8, they finally convinced me to have an epidural because the pain was so bad and I was so exhausted. I just didn't need to hurt anymore. So the guy came in and put it in, and it didn't work! I was ok for an hour while the spinal anesthesia he shot in me first was still working. I could still feel tightening and I watched the clock as my contractions got closer and closer together. When they were a minute apart, I could definitely feel them- they HURT and I could definitely feel my legs...something I guess I wasn't supposed to feel. He came back and gave me a test dose to make sure it wasn't working...um, excuse me, I think I'd know if it was, and it SUCKED. I was having contractions right on top of each other while he was trying to put it in and he was making lame jokes. When it finally worked, it was 10:15, and Leo was born at 10:52. They wrapped him in a blanket right away and I got to hold him while they did the rest...luckily the placenta came out no problem. Sometimes so early in the pregnancy, the placenta is a big problem. I guess we were lucky in that sense.

It was a relief to see him. Your mind comes up with all sorts of images, you know? He was so sweet- a lot bigger than we (or the doctors) thought for 21 weeks. He was 10 1/2 inches long with long arms and legs and fingers and toes- not really a surprise. He had my husband’s eyes and nose and my lips most definitely...so strange to see your features on a little baby. He had little fingernails and toenails and was getting eyebrows and eyelashes and little swirls of hair on his head. He was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. We spent about 3 hours with him. One of the nurses took him and cleaned him and put a little hat on him. It was so sad, though, to see how big and swollen his belly was. Poor little Leo, it just broke my heart and still does to this day. But I'm so glad we got to see him and hold him and say hello and goodbye. And my midwife took him out to the waiting room to see our parents.
 
After that, it was all a surreal blur. Making funeral plans for a baby when before we were planning what color sheets to buy for the crib. No one should have to do that for their child. It's not right. The funeral home was so great...they didn't charge us because the owner had lost two granddaughters as babies so he knew what we were going through. The service was nice and small. My husband stood up and spoke and gave the sweetest, most heartfelt, most heart wrenching tribute to Leo. I still to this day don’t know how we managed to survive.

Today, five years later, we have two little girls who know about their big brother Leo in heaven. Each year on his birthday, we “send him” a balloon. They ask questions, and we answer them. He will always be a part of our lives. In the family portrait my 4-year old just drew, she included Leo, up in heaven, above the rest of us. It warms my heart to know he is such a big part of their lives as well. He should be.

To those for whom this is all so fresh and new and raw, know that it does get more manageable. Your strength will surprise you. My midwife, who also lost a baby put it best- “you still have him in your life, it’s just in a different way than you had planned.”

You can contact Samantha at Samanthamarie.wagner@gmail.com

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