Claire’s story begins in the Summer of 2008 when I was first diagnosed with PCOS. My husband and I knew that having a child would require a bit more planning for us then for the average couple. We decided to begin the process of trying to conceive in the spring of 2010. We did not expect that we would be lucky enough to find ourselves pregnant within three months of trying to conceive. Our quick conception was a blessing!
At our first ultrasound visit, our due date was moved back one week. We were anxious to get through the first trimester so repeating a week was nerve racking. Every Friday on our way to work, we would high five in the car and congratulate ourselves and our little baby for making it another week. Near the end of our first trimester we had a repeat ultrasound and incorrectly decided that we were having a little boy due to a little appendage we saw dangling between the legs. Our doctor explained all babies at that stage have tiny nubs, but we felt there was a big possibility we were having a little boy.
At fifteen weeks we decided to have a 3D/4D ultrasound done to determine the gender of our little bundle. Lone and behold– we were having a little girl!!! I was shocked, and then elated and ultimately overjoyed at the idea of having a little, baby girl. We had already picked out names for each gender, so we knew right away she was our baby Claire Bear.
The following weeks were spent learning about her growth, decorating her nursery, watching my belly grow and enjoying the amazing feeling of her kicking inside of me. I felt Claire kick on a Thursday and by the following Monday Joe had felt her too. We felt connected to the tiny life growing inside of me in a new way and loved feeling her little personality develop. She never woke up until I did in the morning and she loved to stop kicking whenever Joe touched my belly (I think his touch soothed her). She loved the music that Joe listened to and the music that I loved to listen to with equal intensity and she loved to do somersaults in the womb. Everything about her reminded me of my husband, it is no wonder she was born looking just like him!
I had been experiencing consistent pains with my round ligament since my eighteenth/nineteenth week of pregnancy after a weekend spent painting her nursery. I was prescribed some light bed rest for two days and then resumed normal activity. A few weeks later, the pains became more intense and my left leg became uncomfortable while walking. After experiencing some extremely sharp, lower left abdominal pains I went to my doctor’s on October 22, 2010. I was prescribed a week of bed rest to help my round ligaments heal from what we presumed was a reaggravation of my original round ligament injury. The pain was most severe after emptying my bladder, which was consistent with round ligament pain. I do not recall having contractions or any other symptoms of preterm labor.
On Sunday, October 24, 2010 I took a bath and noticed some unusual discharge. It reminded me of descriptions I had read about the mucous plug although for the most part it was clear. I did have some tightening in my lower abdomen which was not painful. The next morning I contacted my doctor and was scheduled to see them in the afternoon. However, I had a prescheduled ultrasound in the morning so a second trimester fetal survey could be done at a more comprehensive facility. My doctor also wanted to have my ovaries examined to make sure the pain wasn’t being caused by any issues with them.
The fetal survey which examined Claire from head to toe went great. I was able to see her again in 3D/4D and saw how much she changed. I saw the similarities between herself and my husband right away and was in awe of her little button nose. Another ultrasound was performed but this one was transvaginal and examined my cervix. After a discussion with my doctor, the sonographer told me it looked like my amniotic sac may have started to drop through my cervix. They could not be sure without a vaginal exam, but that needed to be done at the Labor and Delivery department of the nearest hospital. I was told to go there immediately where I would be met by my doctor.
The rest of the next four days passed like a blur. A vaginal exam revealed that I was dilated 1-2 centimeters and a portion of the amniotic sac was bulging just outside of my cervical opening. In addition, I was experiencing “uterine irritability” which indicated I had already begun preterm labor. I was placed on bed rest and admitted to the hospital, a foley catheter was inserted to keep me off my feet as much as possible and I began a course of magnesium sulfate to stop the labor. On Tuesday afternoon my foley catheter was removed and the magnesium sulfate drip was lessened from 4mg to 1.5mg. Throughout late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning I began experiencing very sharp lower abdominal pains which the night nurse attributed to gas. I got up at approximately 6 a.m. to use my bedside commode and felt the sensation of something exiting my vaginal canal. I was terrified it was her and held my hand out underneath myself to catch what I prayed to God desperately was not my daughter. My water then broke.
I was put immediately back in bed, a foley catheter was reinserted and I met with both the the Perinatologist and my OB a few hours later. They were concerned that I had an infection in my uterus which caused my water to break. My husband and I were told to still have hope that I could carry an additional 10 days to get Claire to the 24 week mark, but it was entirely up to my body how quickly my labor would progress. In my heart and my body I knew that labor was imminent. I can’t explain where this feeling came from or how I knew, perhaps it was a mother’s intuition. My prayers focused on asking God to keep my baby girl alive and I asked Claire to stay strong for Mommy and Daddy.
We knew Claire was going to be breech because of her age and her positioning in my womb. There was a strong chance the distress of labor and the low amount of amniotic fluid would case either an umbilical cord injury or cause her to pass before she was born. Had this been the case, we had decided we would not attempt to resuscitate her. The damage to her brain and heart would have been permanent and the measures needed to restart her fragile lungs would have been incredibly invasive and very painful to her. We knew that if she was born before the 24 week mark, there was such a small chance at her survival and we wanted to spend all the time that we could with her
Ultimately, Claire was delivered at 3:34 a.m. on Thursday, October 28, 2010. Miraculously, she was born kicking, breathing and with a heartbeat. The NICU doctors took her immediately and began attempting to intubate her but their equipment was not small enough and her throat was not developed enough for them to insert a breathing tube. After a few minutes, we were told she would not survive. She was wrapped up and given to my husband and me.
Claire lived less than 30 minutes. We saw her tiny hands, head and mouth move. She responded to our touch and to our voices. She was a miraculous little joy and was strong in ways a mother can only hope their children will be. We spent much of the following day with her until I was released from the hospital. She has been in our hearts from the moment she was conceived and she will remain there until we meet her again in heaven.
I am at a loss trying to explain the pain of losing a child. Instead, my husband and I are trying to focus on preserving Claire’s memory and spreading her love as far and wide as possible. Our hope is that not only will Claire be remembered, but that her life can also make a difference in the life of others. Where she cannot walk, we will walk for her. We know that in heaven, she is doing the same for us.