Our Stillbirth, a Story of Hope

*Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: this is a detailed account of my stillborn child’s birth.  If you do not want to read this, I completely understand.  I am passionate about giving my son a voice and sharing my experience as hope for other moms.  All our stories matter because these tiny ones matter to us!

Our stillbirth, a story of hope

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December 2016 I found out we were going to have another child.  This would be my 7th pregnancy and 6th living child.

I felt great!  The baby was growing well, we had our 12-week appointment and he was dancing around like a little jumping bean.  My husband was set to leave to train his service dog for three weeks, the first week of  January 2017.  I would have an appointment while he was gone, and he would be home for the gender ultrasound in February.  At least, that was our plan.

I had just started a new position as an overnight caregiver at a group home and worked there for a couple weeks.  I had people in place to watch the kids while I worked and slept after my husband left for training.  The first weekend after he left I got sick.  I was dizzy and nauseous and just felt off.  I had been long past the morning sickness, so I just thought I had a bug.

My 16-week appointment was set for Monday morning, and then I got a call that they needed me to reschedule it because someone had gone into labor.  My appointment was rescheduled for Wednesday, I would be exactly 16 weeks that day anyway.

I went to the appointment and had to bring all 5 of my kids which was not unusual.  My OB had a hard time hearing anything at all with the doppler, again not unusual for me at that gestation due to my placentas being positioned on the sunny-side of my uterus more often than not, and she moved us to the room with the ultrasound so we could find things easier.

My children gathered around, watching that little screen, and there the baby was.  but, the doctor kept wiggling the ultrasound wand trying to stimulate movement.  I knew we saw no heartbeat, but you always hope it’s not the truth when you realize it’s happening it’s like a dream. Then, my oldest child and veteran prenatal appointment companion said, ” Momma, there’s no heartbeat.” calm, cool and collected, he was 6 and didn’t realize exactly what that meant, yet.  The doctor reached down and grabbed my hand and mouthed to me, “I’m so sorry!”  My eyes welled up a bit as I had to lie and tell my children that the doctor was making sure that we didn’t need another ultrasound and that she was still looking around.  She scheduled an immediate ultrasound at the main hospital, but we all knew what the results would be.

I walked my children out of the office and to the car, put them in their seats and shut the car door and asked one of my older boys to start it.  I got on the phone and called my mom.  She answered quickly, and I turned my back to the car and cried as I told my very first person that our baby had died.

The ultrasound clinic called while I was on the phone with my mom, and the earliest opening they had was 2 hours later.  I took my kids home, and fed them, and planned to have a friend sit in the car while I got the ultrasound.  I have never been able to hide how I feel well, but God gave me a supernatural ability that day to look “normal” while feeling so much like I wanted to scream.  “Nicole, don’t freak out.” was what I kept telling myself, I wanted my kids to not be afraid of what I knew was coming.

Confirmation

The ultrasound was quick.  She took me back, and we started.  I had only cried once at this point, and the minute I saw her try and get the heart rate recorded and it was a flat line I broke down, sobbing.  She remained stoic and silent and finished the scan.  When she told me I could get ready to go, I said, ” I know you can’t tell me anything, but I know what I saw and my child is gone.”  She finally looked at my eyes, and with absolute compassion, she said, “ I am so sorry, nobody should have to go through this.”  I said to her what would begin to be the entire theme of  the next year, ” This isn’t about what I deserve.”  She hugged me, and then I went out of the room.

I had not told my husband yet, he was in Florida, and I wanted to tell him when I was sure, and without the kids around.  Sitting on the bench next to the main exit of the hospital, I called the only number I had, it was one of my husband’s classmate’s numbers.  I told him I needed someone in leadership to be with my husband when I told him something important, and he said he would go get someone and call me back.

It was about 20 minutes, and my husband called back.  I told him that our son had died and that I wanted him to stay and finish training his dog because it was still going to be our reality when he got home and he would need the dog.  My husband was crying hard when he got off the phone, but I told him we would skype later that night.

I began walking back to the car and my OB called and confirmed what I already knew.  She gave me three options about how to proceed, and I picked the only one that I could live with.  I was going to be induced on Saturday, January 21st, 2017.  I got to the car, and told my kids and our friend that our baby was gone, and let my kids know about the induction that was coming.  The oldest kids cried, but they had never been exposed to death or dying in their memory, so they were crying because I was.  Our oldest looked at me and said, ” Momma, I have an idea!  What if someday Jesus puts a new 6th baby in your baby house!” (this is what he called my uterus at the time) and I told him I thought that was a fantastic Idea.  It was the beginning of hope to me to know that my children believed that God was still good.

My Prayer

That night, after I had told everyone, and taken care of my children, I put the kids to bed and I sat and watched TV and cried.  It was the cry of pure pain.  I told God I was angry and hurt, and that I really wanted that baby to live.  I begged Him to help me to live with this.  I needed Him to start my labor so that I did not feel like I was walking into an abortion on Saturday.  I knew my baby was dead, but my body didn’t.

My mom came in the afternoon on Friday.  She would be with me at the induction the following morning, so I would not be alone.  We went to dinner, and while we were there I felt a POP inside like a balloon breaking and I checked in the bathroom to see if my water had broken.  It was just a little bit, so I figured it was nothing.  Then, we went to the store and I started having contractions.  Nothing very painful, but they began to take my breath away with their frequency.  I spent the rest of the night having contractions and leaking a little bit of fluid, but I knew I got my miracle!  God had answered my plea for my body to begin the process before the induction.  He is never late!

Induction day

We got to the hospital bright and early.  I was not angry or crying, I was at peace.  My OB checked me and confirmed my water had broken.  I told her, she had let me know on Wednesday that she had a stillbirth at 26 weeks herself and I knew she would understand, about the miracle God gave me.  She cried with me and understood that it was what I needed to do this that day.

She let me try to do it without induction medicine and I was told that this being a VBAC I could lose my ability to have more children if my uterus ruptured.  I wanted to deliver my child whole, it was the only gift I could give him and he was worth it to me even if he would be my last.

At noon I had not progressed much, and then I got the medicine for induction.  I began the most painful labor and delivery I have ever had, but not all of the pain was related to labor.

Throughout the day I was able to laugh and speak to the nurses and my mom.  One nurse told me she had never seen a mom in my situation be as joy-filled, she had only seen bitterness and anger.  My labor is my testimony of a merciful God, even in something as small as breaking my water BEFORE I walked into the hospital, he had met me in my pain, and everything else was just going to be the path I had to walk to get to my child.

Delivery

I knew myself well enough to have discussed with my OB that I needed an epidural because I was hurting in so many different ways I needed something to not hurt so much if I could prevent it.

The charge nurse ignored the instructions, and all I was given was short-acting narcotic pain management.  I kept telling her I felt pressure and I could not relax, she did not believe me and felt I was not having enough progress to call the anesthesiologist.  They changed my pain medicine to one that worked a little longer, and after an hour and a half nap I woke up delivering my child.  I asked my mom to get the nurse, I was not going to ask my mom to confirm that I had delivered my baby like that.

The nurse said, “oh, you were right, all you needed was to to be able to relax.  Your baby is born.”  This was the last time I cried before I held my son.  We didn’t know he was a he until I held him.  We had picked the name, McLeod, for him.

She got the second nurse, and they began working to get him in my hands.  My mom was in the bathroom and came out to me holding my tiny boy.  She told me later that she had never seen such peace on my face as she did at that moment.  I replied, “ I did what I intended to do.  I delivered my son, whole.

We got to be with him as long as we wanted.  And, got lots of pictures, and foot and handprints.  They were so respectful and careful with him.  I never imagined anyone would treat him so well other than me and my mom.  They provided me with a pretty purple box with a blanket and little clothes that he would go to the place to be cremated in.  The local mortuary would even cremate him at no-cost, because of his gestational age.  We left the hospital after 4 hours of a nap.  I went home with just memories, it was like a weird nightmare to be wheeled out with handprints in a box and not my son.

It was the first day of a year that would teach me that grief can be done in a way that proves the hope I had gained in his birth.

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