Sunday, December 21, 2008


Today brings pain, sadness, yet hope and peace. Pain and sadness because this is the day our precious son was due. Even though babies come on their own time this was the day we came to anticipate and look forward to. I wanted a holiday baby. He was due today on Winter Solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year. I fantasized and imagined the weeks and days leading up to his birth.

I imagined he was going to be born around this time. I envisioned what his birth was going to be like. Warm cookies and Christmas movies playing. That is what I wanted. I wanted the atmosphere to be inviting and cozy. I was going to have a blissful and empowering birth surrounded by my husband, awesome midwife and daughters. This little tiny person growing inside me all this time was going to be born at home into my arms. He was going to be welcomed with Absolute love and joy. I was going to hold him tightly against my bare chest, kiss and smell his head and take in the whole experience. I was expecting this plump juicy crying baby. One I could nurse and cuddle up with. I wanted the prize. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

There was no pot of gold, though. No prize. No plump juicy crying baby. No happy birthday. Instead, 5.2 weeks ago at this very minute our precious Duncan was born silent. My absolute worst fear had come true. The one thing I dreaded throughout all of my pregnancies had finally happened. It was the day that would forever change our lives. It was the day the old me died and the new me was born. No longer was I the same woman or mother.

He is the son I'll never get to know. The hopes and dreams we had for him were shattered in an instant. Our whole world changed. Instead of expecting a baby at the end of the pregnancy I'm left with empty arms.

With pain and sorrow comes hope and peace. Our son may not physically be here with us, but he is in our hearts. He lives on in our memories. He will not be forgotten. He held on for just shy of 35 weeks. He was nestled in my womb and knew nothing but Love. He's our beautiful son. So very much loved and cherished. I know he's still with us. We finally have the answers and it can allow us to truly come to peace and continue forward on this journey.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One month after the storm

All things considering, I'm doing good. Today at 9:40 am (the time he was born) I found myself reading yet another heartbreaking story of a mom losing her baby. All of the feelings I experienced that day resurfaced as I walked through her story remembering every detail of mine. Feeling as though I was hit by a train and had my life sucked out of me. Some days it still feels like a dream. Like I'll wake up and still be pregnant awaiting the birth of our son. That it was just a nightmare and not something *I* would ever have to experience because it's what other people experience. As much as I wanted to believe it only happens to other people, I knew that just wasn't the case and it can strike anyone. Reading countless stories over the years led me to believe it's not at all rare.

The morning I started to feel something was off I read a late term pregnancy loss story. I tried hard to stay away from any hint of late term pregnancy loss stories because that's the last thing any mother wants to think about. I felt I needed to read this mother's story and offer up any support that I could. It's always painful to read about a mother's heart being broken into pieces and dreams shattered. During the time that I was reading the story something just felt "off." Every other time I've felt off I was usually told that everything was fine and to remain positive. After reaching the "magic" week 13 all is supposed to be fine. At least that is how it usually goes. After getting to the next milestone of 24 weeks it gets even smoother. All of the worries I had in past pregnancies of not feeling a lot of movement and being reassured all was okay and everything turning out fine made me think it would be the case this time. But I just knew something was different. Shortly after I wiped the tears streaming down my face after reading this mother's story I ordered stuff for his birth. I was getting ready to order the birth kit and it dawned on me that I hadn't felt him move. For a second there I couldn't hold back the pessimism and told myself that I would be in the very same position. I just felt all doom and gloom. And I was right. My instincts were right. I went looking for his heart beat and couldn't get it. My doppler was dying so I figured that I couldn't pick anything up because it needed a new battery. I thought I picked something up after a few minutes. I want to believe I did. It read 136 and I found it low so I felt slightly reassured. That just didn't last.

I tried to put my worries behind me and keep busy, but after a while the worry wasn't shaking. I tried some more to find his heart beat and got frustrated with the dead battery in the doppler. I called Mark at work to see if he could pick up a 9v battery and he told me we had one. What a relief I thought that was. I didn't have to wait anxiously for him to come home with one. But now with a working battery I knew I couldn't just chalk it up to a dead battery making it harder to locate heart tones. The afternoon didn't bring anything promising and only revealed what I already knew. My baby was gone. I tried frantically to find his heart beat for two hours off and on. Mark came home saw me on the bed with a stark worried look on my face and new something was wrong. He could tell I had been trying a long time. All he asked was how long I had been trying. All I could say with tears in my eyes was, "Too long. Over an hour." I tried to remain calm and collected, but in the back of my head I knew he was gone. I tried to analyze the situation and take a pragmatic approach and I think much of that had to do with trying to shield myself or protect myself from the hurt and pain I knew would come flooding in once it really hit me, my baby was dead.

I kept thinking maybe I could wait until my next appt. with my midwife since it was the following day, but I knew I couldn't wait that long and I knew deep down inside she wasn't going to be able to reassure me. I had to call her and tell her my deepest fear. I knew I couldn't wait until the next day. I could tell she was trying to keep my spirits up but she knew as well as I did that heart tones at that point in pregnancy are not difficult to find. It never took me longer than 30 seconds to find his or the girls' heart beat.

So instead of waiting 'til the next day she came by. It seemed like the longest 90 minutes of my life. Waiting just to hear the bad news from someone else. She commented on how huge my belly was. I tried to hide my pain and worry and laughed about my ginormous belly. I put on a smile and tried to make jokes and lighten the mood. The whole 30 minutes she tried I didn't let my hurt show. I wasn't sure when it would all come out or when it would really, really hit me. I was guarded. I didn't want to believe it was happening to me. The whole drive to the hospital felt like it took forever. I tried to keep the conversation lively and asked about her births and we talked about the kids. Even though we had much of the same conversations before I needed something to talk about to take my mind off of what was coming next. It was all so short lived. I kept thinking in the back of my head that I *can't* be going to the hospital. That was NOT the plan. I did not want to step foot on the labor and delivery floor. I told myself that in this situation that was the place I needed to be.

I already knew what I was going to be told when the CNM put the huge globs of ultrasound gel and the transducer on my belly. It's not like I didn't already know. Seeing no movement on the screen just cemented everything I knew and was feeling. The OB coming in to confirm he was gone really didn't hit me. I already knew. I knew when I put my doppler to my belly in the afternoon and couldn't find anything. I kept thinking that it couldn't be real. This couldn't be my situation. I was supposed to have my beautiful baby boy at home welcomed by my arms. He was supposed to be born in a serene and peaceful environment surrounded by his loved ones. I was supposed to hold his warm body tightly against my bare chest and be overcome with joy and love. This was not the experience we had been planning throughout my entire pregnancy. I couldn't fathom having to prepare myself to deliver a dead baby. I wasn't going to hear or see the crying pink baby, instead mine was going to be lifeless. Instead of being greeted with happy faces and nurses everyone was sad. No one knew what to say. Just sadness. Even with all of the sadness I told myself that if all I was going to have is almost 35 weeks with him, then it's a good thing I cherished those weeks and took in every moment we got to spend with him after his birth.

I've learned a lot about myself this past month. This experience has shaped everything about me and the impermanence of this life and how it needs to be cherished. It has taught me so much.

I long to have my arms full. I want something to look forward to. I want to experience the joy of welcoming a new baby into our life. I have so much love to give and I want to share it with a new little person. To go through a pregnancy and childbirth only to have empty arms hurts so much. The idea that I have a "history" and will have to go through two pregnancies just to get one baby is hard to take in sometimes. Having to tell people that I have three children but I get the privilege of raising two just seems so... not right. I'm miss him so very much. I have learned to adapt to my new world and draw strength from myself and loved ones. I do my best to keep my spirits up and stay optimistic. I knew he will always live on in our hearts and will forever be loved and cherished.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yearning to have my arms full

I want to be pregnant again . . . like now. At the hospital I knew I wanted to be pregnant again right away. That urge to bring forth a life, especially after a loss, is so strong. I want that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A rainbow baby. Days following Duncan's birth we began talking about names. I was obsessed with wanting to be pregnant again. I desperately wanted something to look forward. A new hope. A new life. Something. I want the experience the ups and downs of pregnancy. I want to pull a plump crying baby to my chest and have the cocktail of motherly hormones wash over me and not sadness and heartache. I want to experience Ultimate Joy of bringing forth a new life. I want to be pregnant again.

At three weeks postpartum, I took a pregnancy test and it was NEGATIVE. I was never so happy to see a BFN in my life. Yes! My hormones are returning to normal. My body is beginning to heal and return to normal.

My wish can not come soon enough.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Road No Parent Should Have to Travel - Day 16

Today marks the end of day 16 in my "grieving my dead child" journey.

We returned home from visiting DH's family for Thanksgiving this afternoon. I enjoyed our time away, but I couldn't wait to get home. We'll be heading back in two weeks to spend Christmas up there. We initially didn't plan anything for Thanksgiving. We figured we'd just go out to eat. It wasn't until the last minute did we decide to head to VA for the holiday. DH thought it would be a good change of scenery and help keep me distracted or busy. It was actually nice. I just wasn't sure how his family was going to react once we arrived. What they would say. But I guess there's not much anyone can say. Days following his birth family asked what our plans were, in terms of a memorial service. We were never comfortable with a religious service since we're nontheists. Mentions of a church service just didn't jive well with us. DH told some of his relatives we had no plans and left it at that.

Anywho, when it came time to actually getting together with relatives it was somewhat awkward. I wanted them to say something and not act like nothing happened, but then I knew in the back of my head that they likely didn't know what to say or do. No one said a thing until late Thanksgiving Day when DH's Nana came to visit. I know she took it really hard. I was relaxing on the couch and she came and sat by me with a stack of newspapers and homemade cards. She told me she had to do something. She put in a lovely remembrance in Sunday's newspaper. One of DH's uncles made some "In Memory" cards to give to family. That was so nice of them to do. It broke my heart when she started to tear up when she brought up buying Christmas ornaments for the kids. With a very soft and shaky tone while trying to hold back tears she said she got Duncan's ornament before the 13th. I couldn't hold back the tears. I could sense the hurt she was feeling. She thought she upset me by giving me his ornament. In no way was I upset. I was thinking so many things that moment. Having spent the whole day distracted by Thanksgiving festivities and relatives to have someone show that they were thinking of us was comforting.

During the whole trip I carried with me a baby blanket a friend made for me (thank you, Lora). Having something solid to hold on to has brought me much comfort. I'm sure some of the relatives were wondering what was up with the baby blanket I was toting around. I needed something to hold on to. Since my milk dried up reality really hit me. I have no baby to hold, nurse or care for. Those afterbirth hormones really do a number. These past 16 days have ranged from times I feel coherent to times I'm just numb. I have come to accept that what once was no longer is. The hopes, dreams, excitement, expectations, anticipations I had are no longer there. I'm reminded of that when I open my dresser drawer and see a purple box with a satin ribbon with keepsakes in it. When I think back to walking out of the hospital not with a baby but that purple box. I came home with a box. There was never supposed to be a "coming home" anyway. He was supposed to be born at home in a warm, loving, serene and peaceful environment. He was supposed to be welcomed by my arms, held tightly to my chest while I basked in the wonderful experience and joy that bringing a new life into the world brings. But that is not my reality; it is not my world. It was the reality I was expecting to experience before realizing my son was gone on November 13th.

I'm determined to face this unfortunate "journey" head on. I need to. I don't want to be numb to the process. I don't want to fade away into some shadow world. I need to not shy away from dealing with grief. It is there and won't go away. It needs to be faced head on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drowning In Tears

My milk is in now and I can't stop crying. I have no baby to feed. My heart aches and I'm numb, so numb and raw. My arms empty when they're supposed to be full. My heart hurts. My whole world was shattered in an instant and now I'm reminded of what I don't have. My son is gone. He's not here with me, in my arms receiving my warm milk, that liquid life. I can not stare into his eyes and watch him fall blissfully asleep while hugged tightly to my breast. I'm left wanting and yearning for my baby, my son and my heart to be whole again. It hurts. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I just want to be whole again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Into the storm: The Loss of Duncan

My husband and I had been planning a homebirth this pregnancy and we were ecstatic about it. Before learning about Duncan's passing I was counting down the days to his impending birth. I ordered last minute things for the birth and was in good spirits. Much of that changed when after ordering some stuff for the birth I noticed I hadn't felt him move or his hiccups in the last day or two. In the back of my head I thought everything was fine. I have a doppler (the kind some midwives and OBs use) that I had since my first pregnancy and thought to use it to reassure myself. I don't like using it, but I thought it would give me peace of mind and reassure me everything was okay. The doppler was on its last leg and was a hassle trying to get heart tones because it kept dying out. After maybe five minutes I pick up a what I thought was his heart beat which read 136. I found it low and in front. I thought everything was good.

As the day progressed I didn't feel him move at all. Something just didn't seem right. I first checked for his heart tones around 9:00 am. I checked again at around 2:30 pm. This time after trying for 10 minutes I just knew something wasn't right. I tried every place I could think of. Another 30 minutes went by and still nothing. Being almost 35 weeks I should have been able to pick up his heart beat anywhere, but I wasn't getting anything above 108, which was mine. I decided to rest and see if I could feel any movements. I thought if I took it easy then maybe he'll wake up. In the back of my head I just knew that wasn't the case. I decided to get up and go search for a 9v battery to replace the dying one. I replaced it and still nothing. I was getting a ton of feedback, though. Very annoying. By this time Mark came home from work and asked how long I had been trying. I said, "Too long. Over an hour." He had a feeling, but wanted to remain optimistic.

After not getting anything back I called my midwife to tell her what was going on and she got worried. She wasn't as worried about me not feeling as much movement because I had the excess fluid and that can sometimes muffle the baby's movement. She was concerned about not being able to pick up his heart beat. She asked if I wanted her to come to the house and check to hopefully reassure me that all was okay. She arrived and noted how huge my stomach was. I was approaching 35 weeks and my fundus measured 47 cm (equivalent to 47 weeks). I had so much fluid. It was now her turn to try and she tried and tried for about 30 minutes and didn't get anything. We were set to go to the hospital. I called and spoke to a nurse and she transferred me to a CNM and I told her what was going on. I wanted to bypass triage and head straight for an ultrasound. During this whole time I knew he was gone, but it hadn't hit me yet.

Mark stayed home with the kids while my midwife and I headed to the hospital. I was going to call him as soon as it was confirmed. We get to L&D and the NM greeted us at the front desk. I made sure to tell her that I was really just about 35 weeks. I'm sure she was thinking there's no way, simply because of how big I was. Now it was time for the ultrasound. It didn't take her long to tell me that she wasn't seeing what she wanted to. She went ahead and got the OB on duty that night and he confirmed that Duncan had passed. I already knew he was gone. I knew since the beginning of the day. Seeing him still on the ultrasound was when reality hit me. He was really gone. So many things were whirling about in my head. He noted the abnormalities he saw -- my fluid level and there looked to be some calcification on the placenta, which isn't normal at this point. I honestly didn't think anything was wrong with my placenta.

The OB and NM left to give me some privacy and said they'd have the chaplain come up to talk with me. The tears started to flood and I started to feel really numb. I called Mark to tell him of the news and I could tell he wanted to stay strong for me. My midwife was so kind to ask a doula friend of hers to watch the girls since we don't have family here. My husband arrived with the girls and I was so relieved to see Eve was asleep. I wasn't sure how they'd handle being up since it was getting late. I called my mom and some friends to let them know what was going on. That was rough. Having to break the news to family and friends. Mark had a hard time telling his family.

After we had some time to ourselves the OB and chaplain came in to talk to us about what our plans were with inducing labor and when. He suggested not to wait longer than two weeks. I wanted to be induced ASAP. He told us that they can induce that night. Since it was already around 10:00 pm, we figured it would be in the morning. We left to go pack my things and meet with the lady that was going to watch the girls. My midwife had another client in labor that she was going to check up on. She was going to come back to the hospital in the morning.

We got home and I packed my things and took a shower. Still completely numb and in shock. It was my worst nightmare come true. Ann showed up and we left. I'm so grateful for her watching the girls. She was so sweet and kind.

The 15 minute drive seemed a lot longer than it was. I kept thinking I had 5 weeks to go and he just couldn't be gone. He seemed so active and well days prior. What went wrong. We arrived at the L&D floor and were met with very sad faces. The nurses were so wonderful and attentive. I knew it was going to be a long night. Nothing is ever quick in the hospital, at least not in my experience. The nurses attempted to start an IV and didn't have much success at first. After four tries the IV ended up going in the median cubital vein (elbow bend). I was stuck a total of nine times by the end of my hospital stay and over 20 vials of blood was taken.

The OB came in to talk about the induction process. He said what's most important to him was that I wasn't in any pain and that I rest. That in a normal situation he wouldn't stress a medicated birth, but in cases like this he doesn't want to see the patient in pain. I definitely understood what he was saying. He told us that given the situation it wouldn't be a normal induction. They were going to be more aggressive with the dosage they use to induce labor. I was hoping to just have my membranes ruptured and see if it could get things going. He wasn't at all convinced my cervix was doing anything at this point. He didn't even want to check until after I was medicated. He didn't want me to be in physical pain while trying to cope with the enormous emotional pain I was feeling.

But hell, an epidural was NOT what I wanted. I like to be in control. I like to move around. I didn't want my lower half being numb. I didn't want to feel paralyzed from the waist down and I sure as hell didn't want to be hooked up to a bunch of beepy annoying machines. I just wasn't sure what to expect with this kind of induction. He brought up Cytotec, which is an awful drug used to induce labor. I told him I wasn't comfortable with that drug. He said giving me pitocin if my cervix wasn't ready could backfire and make it a very long and painful process. The same and worse is said about Cytotec. I was nervous about this induction process. I was convinced I'd be starting with a closed, high and thick cervix. Still, I was not about to have Cytotec.

Much to my dismay I consented to the darn epidural. Hated the whole process. I felt the anesthesiologist threading the catheter down the epidural space and to the left side. I felt him pushing it in. Wonderful. I knew my left leg was going to be more numb than my right since that is where the catheter was threaded. A kink formed in the line and the anesthesiologist administered lidocaine to make sure it was working. Not cool at all. The epidural was placed at 5:30 am and the doctor came in to check my cervix for the first time at 6:15 am. Much to his surprise I was 4 cm dilated, but Duncan was of course floating around in all that fluid and I wasn't yet effaced, which was to be expected. It was this time he ruptured my membranes. His game plan was to induce with pitocin and it was administered at 6:45 am. Within 15 minutes the contractions started, but didn't register very strong on the monitor. They weren't regular at all. I so hated being numb, but I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and really needed some sleep. Mark passed out in the pull-out chair and I dosed off. I woke up in every so often to see what was going on, if anything. I remember waking up maybe close to 8:00 am and I freaked out when I couldn't move or feel my left leg. It just felt like a huge mass or heavy stump. I was getting very anxious and had Mark buzz the nurse two times to have the epidural turned off. I hated that feeling. I couldn't move my lower half to reposition myself at all.

The nurse called for the anesthesiologist, which was a different guy this time. He told me what I was feeling was the local block he initially inserted into the epidural catheter. He said it would wear off and wasn't permanent at all. I asked about having it turned off and he advised against it because the new OB on duty was going to up the pitocin to a much higher dose to really get things going. It was around this time the OB came in to check my progress. I was 5 cm and Duncan's head was at -1 station without a contraction and 0 station with one. I wasn't completely effaced yet because for so long he had been floating and wasn't able to put pressure on the cervix to thin it out. So, with the pitocin turned up he said it should get active labor going. Around this time my midwife showed up and was my labor companion during this whole process. My excess fluid really did show itself when the contractions started to come on strong. I don't think the nurses were expecting to see so much fluid. It leaked everywhere. There was a huge puddle behind the bed and my midwife was standing in a big puddle. It was like a non-stop gush of fluid. I had these leg cuffs on to stimulate the muscles so blood clots don't form. Interesting gadget.

I was so hoping the whole induction process was going to be over soon. I was able to get a little bit of rest here and there and we all joked about the edema in my legs. Being pumped full of so much fluid really does it. Apparently, my left leg had massive swelling. My foot was huge. They got a good laugh. The mood was lightening up, but I knew that would change as soon as Duncan made his entrance. By 9:00 am I was beginning to feel the contractions, which was weird because my legs were still numb. Finally, I had some feeling and was able to get an idea of where I was at. Contractions actually weren't bad at all. I did feel them coming every 2 minutes and we could see on the monitor that I was getting close to transition. It was around 9:30 am when I told them I was feeling some pressure, like he was descending. My midwife said the contractions were beginning to come back to back. The nurse called for the OB and they began prepping. I started to feel the contractions getting a little stronger along with the pressure. The nurse turned off the epidural pump just in time, which was pointless since I was already capable of feeling the contractions and pressure. The pressure I was feeling at that time was a gush of water and then out slid tiny Duncan. He was so small. He was a little peanut compared to our girls. He was beautiful. Still covered in a lot of vernix. Mark and I both broke out in tears at the same time. Finally the whole induction process was over, but now reality hit us. Our son was gone. He wasn't the screaming pink and wide-eyed baby we so wanted. But gosh, he was just gorgeous. We couldn't give him a bath since they needed him to be "preserved" for the autopsy. Duncan Lewis Garibaldi Hines was born on 11/14/08 at 9:40 am. He was 5 lbs., 4 oz and 17 1/2 inches. He was born just under 3 hours after I was induced with pitocin with 1 hour and 40 minutes of active labor. He had blond hair like his dad and big feet like both of us.

Moments after his birth I inquired about the placenta. He said on appearance it look normal. Nice and big. Not shriveled or aged. He mentioned the ultrasound picking up some calcification and that the autopsy might reveal something he can't visibly see.

We got to spend over three hours with him. We cuddled and took pictures. The chaplain/bereavement counselor gave us a keepsake box to put pictures in. It came with an outfit, hat, a card for his footprints and a little baggy to put some hair in. He was dressed up in the little outfit and the nurse took his pictures. I loved the time we got to spend with him. I'll forever cherish the time we had together. We got to bond for just over 8 1/2 months and I will treasure every moment of that time. I could tell Mark was trying to stay strong, but it really hit him when he got to hold him. He said he looked like our youngest. One of the nurses said he looked like Mark and I agree.

When it was time to give him to the nurse I just broke down. It was so hard to give my son away. I would never get to see or hold him again. After he left I just wanted to sleep. I hadn't had but a couple hours of sleep in over 30 hours at this point. I couldn't wait to be discharged and go home. The OB came back in to check up on us and said 6 hours was the minimum stay. He wanted to make sure everything was alright with me before letting us go. He wanted to make sure I retained sensation in my legs and was able to walk and urinate. I couldn't wait to get out of that ugly and annoying hospital gown. And I wanted some food. Real food. The hospital food definitely wasn't the greatest. The bereavement counselor came in to talk to us about our plans for Duncan. We agreed on cremating him. We want to keep him with us. We were told it would take 3-4 weeks to get the pathology and autopsy results back and it's certainly one thing on my mind a lot. Even though I am anxious to get the report back, in the back of my head I have a feeling what went wrong.

It's been three days since his birth and each day is different. I think about what could have been and how much I miss him. Coming home without a baby was so hard. I want him with me. I want to smell him and cuddle him. My milk just came in today and I cry so hard knowing I can't nurse him. I want to smell the sweet milk on his breath. I want to wake up every two hours to feed him. But I can't. My baby is gone. Part of me is gone. I try to stay strong for our girls and put on a face and there are times that I tell myself I can get through this and be at peace. Mark has been a great support and I know he's going through the grieving process in his own way.

He will always live on in our hearts and memories. I miss him and love him dearly. I have to remind myself that it's going to be a long journey to recovery. The pain will never go away it just gets different.

Sunshine After A Rainy Day

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