March 22, 2016 9 minute read
I am sharing our story because my grief counselor keeps suggesting writing as a way to heal. I am sharing our story for other mothers out there who might feel alone in their grief, too. I am sharing our story because I had a daughter, and I want people to know about her. I am sharing our story because the memories and love for her are all we have left to share.
“I am not a breeder!” I would playfully say to anyone asking me about having kids. I don’t know why I never desired to have children, but I knew it from an early age and proclaimed it loudly and without remorse (much to my mother’s disappointment). My husband and I were married in 2008 and my “ten year plan” was to move to the country and have horses…not children. Fast forward 7 years, 4 job changes, 2 mortgages, and 1 mini cooper – life was pretty good. My husband just left his tenured position at the University to pursue an exciting startup and things were kind of simple and easy…established. Occasionally the “kid thing” would still come up, one of our parents would mention it at a holiday or a new friend would casually ask over drinks. We even entertained the idea once in a while ourselves, but never made the effort or discussed it seriously.
In January 2015, we went on vacation to Puerto Rico and during our stay entertained the idea of just letting things happen naturally and if a baby happened, then it was meant to be. Funny enough, what we didn’t know then was nature had already decided for us! In early February I broke the news to my husband that we were expecting. Two weeks later we told our immediate families and close friends, and a month later, when I was 12 weeks, we gleefully announced it on social media and Facebook.
Wow, a baby! For someone that never planned to have children, I embraced the idea wholeheartedly from the moment I saw those two lines. I immediately got all the apps, read (or skimmed) all of What to Expect, and started researching all things baby. The first 16 weeks of my pregnancy were hard. I was so sick – all day, everyday. My husband took care of me, feeding me whatever I could keep down, calming me when I was in tears from gagging into the toilet for hours. I was scared too, certain I was too old for this (39 years young), or something would be wrong with the baby, or worse. I feared the unmentionable, insisted my mom wait until my 20 week ultra sound before investing in baby furniture for the nursery, and tortured myself reading losses on the online birth board I followed. I spent countless hours on the phone with my mom – soon to be Grandma – talking about everything baby (just please don’t ask about my morning sickness!).
Finally, I relaxed into the pregnancy and things were amazing. Our 16 week testing told us to expect a healthy baby girl and our 20 week ultra sound showed she was energetic and on track. “Perfectly average” became the norm, and I treasured every movement, every kick, every second of being pregnant. My husband and I started going to Bradley Classes to learn how to have a natural, un-medicated husband/coached assisted childbirth. I asked a good friend of ours to act as our doula. I looked forward to our weekly phone calls with my mother in law to talk about our baby’s progress. I gave notice to my work that I would be switching to part time after the baby was born and I joined our local MOMs club for stay at home mommas. I spent hours reading reviews of infant thermometers, the safest car seat, the best stroller. I watched videos on how to hold an infant, how to change a diaper, how to tie a Moby wrap. I started noticing babies everywhere and would stare at families in the grocery store, dreaming of that soon being us. By my third trimester an amazing calmness had taken over. My husband played guitar for her/us and we would sing songs to my belly. I even loved waddling around Whole Foods – it didn’t matter that I had to visit the bathroom twice while we were there. I often joked about how baby hormones were the best – how I had never felt emotionally better in my life. I was so happy. We were building a family!
By the time our due date rolled around, we had everything ready. Perfect nursery all ready to go, all the things people said we would need and much more. We even upgraded our tiny sports car to the “family model” Countryman. Our hospital bag was packed and by the front door. Everything was set, but our little girl just wasn’t ready. From my classes and reading I knew due dates were just estimates and I expected to go into natural labor when she was ready. I started going to acupuncture. I visited a chiropractor, twice. 41 weeks went by and we passed the NST’s and biophysical profiles with flying colors – she was just too damn comfortable in there! We made plans for induction at exactly 42 weeks, surely she would come on her own before that was necessary!
On October 6th my husband and I drove the 7 min away to our hospital to start induction. Oh my, an October baby instead – how cool, it is my favorite month of the year, after all! I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to try for that un-medicated birth but I was so ready to meet her, it didn’t matter. Inductions are the norm in the US and healthy baby/healthy momma is the goal, no matter how you get there. I was calm.
I was so calm as the nurse asked a billion intake questions, hooked me up to the IV for fluids and administered the Pitocin to get labor started. Occasionally, I would ask my husband how the baby was doing and he would look at the monitors and say “just fine”. Once the pit really got going it was too much for me. A kind nurse got me out of the bed, hoping to help me get through it without need for an epidural, but all my practice went out of the window. The contractions on pit were too fast, too strong, and it hurt too badly. It didn’t take long for the OB to come back and check my progress, and despite all the contractions and pain they said I was still in pre-labor and had not progressed. I opted for the epidural, there was no way I could handle this for hours more. It wasn’t as scary as I thought, and I felt better instantly. I was calm and our baby was still doing fine. Occasionally her heart would decel during contractions but it was never alarming and everything seemed fine. Later, hours later, I was checked again and it was determined my water had broke. There was the possibility our girl had swallowed meconium, and we were advised the neonatal team would be there at birth in case there were any complications from that. I was aware this could happen, and the staff seemed on top of it. I was calm.
I don’t know how much time passed, but all of a sudden we were at 9cm and things were getting close. We called our friend Allie to come right away (she was acting as a second coach/doula) and while we waited my husband and I chatted in anticipation. Allie arrived and the three of us joked around some more. I was calm. Everything looked good. Then came the pushing phase and I don’t remember too much. I am told I pushed for about 2 hours. I have no idea. It was like doing never-ending reps at the gym. Lean forward, grab legs, push, push, push, push, lay back down, relax for a few min, eat ice chip, water on face, breathe. And repeat. Oh so close. I remember hearing Allie asking if I wanted to see the crown. No no no just get her out! I am haunted by that moment, when I screamed to “get her out” because it hurt so bad. I heard the OB tell my husband to get ready, and then all was left was the final push, and swoooosh my baby was born. My husband cut the cord.
It was so quiet.
The neonatal team was working on our daughter. I could just see her to my left, and the room was so noisy. I could hear the specialist asking for EPI, asking the time. I could see my daughter, still in the crib. The OB was delivering my placenta and apologizing for pushing on my belly, I said I didn’t care. My eyes kept going from our friend Allie, to my husband, to our baby. I started crying “My baby, my baby, my baby!” Shhhhhh it will be ok. I knew it wouldn’t. Something was really wrong. After what seemed like an eternity the neonatal specialist asked the time and pronounced her gone. I remember she came over to me an apologized, she said she tried everything. I cried that I wanted to die too. I remember the look of the OB team, they were in shock also.
Later, our nurse said she had never seen anything like that in her career. Our resident OB left the room in tears and never returned. The delivering OB talked to us a bunch. He said he had never seen anything like what happened and he had been delivering babies for 16 years. Nobody could give us any explanation for what happened. The occasional decel in her heartbeat wasn’t enough for them to be worried about her being in distress. They were following her heartbeat throughout the pushing stage, following her down the birth canal. All signs looked normal and expected. My placenta showed some signs of aging, but nothing out of the ordinary for a post-term birth. The cord was thin, but that was probably unrelated. I heard all this, but I wasn’t processing anything. I was in shock.
It has been 7 weeks and that shock hasn’t left me. We still don’t have any real answers. The preliminary autopsy says our daughter died from asphyxiation and fetal acidosis. How does that happen in labor, without anyone knowing?!!?!?!?! The how’s and what if’s haunt us, but we try not to indulge them anymore. Our reality is scary and terrible enough as it is, if we entertained all the ways we could have done something differently it would be worse then the hell we currently live in.
I wake up crying more often then not. Everything is a reminder of what we lost. Every single minute is heartache, even if hidden by a brave and tentative smile. Some days are better than others, but every day is hard, and some of them are downright impossible. My husband is amazing and we share the loss together, which helps. I started going to therapy with someone that has lived through loss also. I went to my first support group last week. I also went back to work, but can’t seem to get through a full day yet. I wish I had some positive words for other moms going through this. I wish I could believe the encouraging words from moms that have been through this and survived. I wish the future didn’t seem so scary now. I wish I didn’t know how often other mommies experience loss, how many babies are taken from us too soon. I wish I didn’t know how just because you make it through the first trimester, then the second, and the third, nothing is for sure, and we are not safe. I wish for so many things, but mostly I wish this wasn’t our story. I wish we had our daughter.
Our daughter! Her name, Larkin Amelia Rose. She was born alive, but only lived for minutes. She was 8lbs and 4oz. She was so gorgeous. She had a tiny little mole next to her right eye, and a nose like mine, and beautiful brown hair like her daddy. We spent hours holding her after she was born. Trading kisses and tears. It wasn’t enough. The pictures the hospital took are perfect, and I treasure them so much, but they are not enough. Still, I hate that I can’t share them all with the world because they are all I have besides the memories and our love for her. I am so proud of her and want to show them to everyone I know so they can see how perfect she was, but who wants to look at a ghost? I want to talk about Larkin with my friends and family, and remember all the joy, hope and, most importantly, the love that her brief time made possible. But remembering is so hard and the pain is still so raw. I hope they keep asking, anyway. This world is something less without Larkin here, and the effects of that loss are forever.
You were taken away, but love always remains.