The following post deals with pregnancy loss and may contain sensitive topics. 

Today, at 8:20 AM, we were supposed to be at our second trimester ultrasound for our baby.  Instead, I am writing.  A week ago from today, at 2:23 AM, I gave birth to our beautiful little boy at 18 weeks of gestation.

A “Rainbow Baby” is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby. The term is given to these babies because a rainbow typically follows a storm, giving us hope of what’s to come.

In February, we experienced a pregnancy loss at 16 weeks.  I thought it was the worst experience we would ever go through.  When we discovered I was pregnant again a few months later, I was more than ecstatic.  Extremely apprehensive, and terrified?  Absolutely!  I was also thrilled.  I was constantly holding my breath to reach 16 weeks.  I thought that since we had lost our baby at 16 weeks the previous time, there was absolutely no way I would lose another one after that amount of time had passed.

The last time, I had not known I was going to be a Mother again.  The guilt follows me to this day, and will probably follow me forever- I was unaware of our tiny one growing.  I wasn’t taking the right precautions.  This time, I knew.  I knew to watch what I ate and drank and I had followed my Doctor’s suggestions.

I  had done everything right.

THE CLOUDS BEFORE THE STORM

At the end of 16 weeks, I felt a kick.  I cried.  Several emotions were present, but most of all, I was relieved.  I couldn’t wait for our next appointment to confirm that our baby was doing okay.  However, I felt in my heart and in my gut, that something wasn’t right.  I tried to brush it off.  I thought it would be impossible to experience a loss and not be worried.  It was normal to constantly be waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It was okay to feel like something was wrong, but that it was surely just in my head.  We had been through the worst.  There was no way it could happen again…. but then it did.

On the morning of our appointment, I woke up from a couple of hours of sleep in a very excited and nervous mood; I was constantly moving.  I was worried we would be late due to the rush hour, “Monday Morning” traffic.  Pulling up to the hospital, I told my toddler to be good for Daddy, kissed my husband goodbye, and said “Wish us luck.”

I anxiously signed in, and distracted myself with e-mails for work.  I was accepted as a blogger for one of the bigger newspapers in the area.  Excitement of what was to come was overwhelming.  In the waiting room, I glanced at a beautiful newborn with his Mother and I was thrilled to have the privilege of experiencing it all over again myself. I was then called by my Doctor’s student.  It was my turn.  It was time to hear the heartbeat of our beautiful baby.

I was smiling the whole time, and I was prepared to answer any question she had.  Nights had been dedicated to me analyzing how I was feeling compared to the last time.  She was so kind.  She took my blood pressure, said it was perfect and I sighed in relief.  I never had high blood pressure during my pregnancy with Liam, and I thought it was a good sign.  I was okay.

THE CLOUDS DARKEN

It was time to use the doppler to hear the heartbeat.  I turned the video setting on my phone on.  I wanted to have the heartbeat recorded as a reminder.  It would be a reminder that yes, I would worry during the entire pregnancy, but, I would also hear that beautiful heartbeat and it would all be okay.

She tried finding the heartbeat for a few minutes.  Within the 4 minutes and 12 seconds that I had been recording, you can hear me start crying.  You can almost hear my heart drop into what felt like the never-ending pit of my stomach.  I knew.  I now have one of my darkest moments recorded.

The student looked at me and said it may be her inexperience, and she would go get my Doctor.  She put her hand on my shoulder, glanced at me quickly with eyes that told me the truth, but told me to not worry just yet.

My Doctor walked in, and since she knew our history, I could see it in her face right away.  She began to look for the heartbeat herself.  She tried to comfort me, saying that it once took her 30 minutes to find a heartbeat at this stage of gestation.  I knew she was trying her best to keep me calm, but I had a flashback to hearing Liam’s heartbeat.  It had been found easily, and it was loud and clear.

While I knew it was possible that the baby was hiding, it should not take this long to find that quick drumming sound I was longing for.  They then resorted to bringing in an ultrasound machine.

HE WAS BEAUTIFUL.

He looked perfect and cozy in the ever growing space my body and heart was making for him.  It was clear he was meant to be taking up this space.  It was also clear that he did not have a heartbeat.

I looked up at my Doctor, and said “There should be a flutter in that beautiful space.  There isn’t.”

She turned to me, put her arms around me, and said while they needed confirmation, she was so sorry.  I was hugged by my Doctor as I burst into tears and the nightmare truly began.  This is when shock took over and the next few hours were out of my control.

She called a few other doctors as I used half of her Kleenex box, and arranged the confirmation ultrasound.  It was time for me to stand up and walk to the other part of the hospital and I was rooted.  I stood up, but almost threw up all over my doctor and this poor student.

My doctor showed me that she had her fingers crossed.  As I walked into the stairwell and let out my first unaccompanied wail of grief, I heard her speaking gently to her student.  She was making sure she was okay after needing to give this news.  I am so glad she did that.  It comforted me knowing that while I probably gave this student one of her first experiences with a patient’s loss, my Doctor was taking care of her.  The mind is a bizarre thing. I was so worried about her… meanwhile, I could barely get down the stairs.

SURROUNDED

I somehow managed to get to the right part of the hospital.  Due to our previous loss and my firstborn Son, I knew to prepare myself to be surrounded by pregnant women.  These big bellied women were waiting for their babies to make an on-screen appearance too.  No, I didn’t want to see them, but I also did not want them to see me crying.  I stood as far away from all of them as I could, while still being able to see my number flash on the screen to notify me that it was my turn.

I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.

Usually, I am a very quiet person but during this time I wanted to yell.  In the quiet waiting room full of women and their significant others, I wanted them to know that I had once been just like them.  I had a dream perfect pregnancy too at one point. I had waited in the exact same chair that they were currently sitting in, without any doubts that my child was okay.  My firstborn Son was absolutely perfect in every single way but there I was two years later, losing a second child.

Who was I kidding?  Yelling would not help anyone.   I would not put those feelings on anyone; I cried as quietly as I could.

My husband and toddler came to check on me at this time.  I want my Son to see that tears are okay, but this was not the place for that.  I told my husband that I didn’t know how long things would take, and that I didn’t want our Son there for everything that followed.  By husband hugged and kissed me.  He showed strength by taking care of our Son in a time when I am sure he just wanted to be with me.  I don’t say it as often as I should, but I am in awe of my husband and what he does for our family, and for me.

MY NUMBER FLASHED…

I went up to the window, and handed the woman the papers.  “So, you have an appointment?”, she asked.  “No.  This was unexpected”, I replied.  She looked at the paper and I saw her look at where it stated that Dr Luskey had been notified.  She glanced back up, and said, “Ok…. so you don’t have an appointment.  I don’t understand.”

“There was no heartbeat!!!” I said quickly.  It hadn’t fully registered for myself yet and I was far from wanting to say the words aloud.  I instantly felt horrible.

She referred to her colleague, who said to highlight the note that the doctor was aware.  The receptionist could not find a highlighter.  She spent several minutes looking around the office, and couldn’t find one.  She eventually got one out of her purse that she had poured all over the counter.  Weird details to remember and write about?  Sure.  But in the moment, I had to focus on one thing at a time.  This highlighter was a big deal at this moment.  I focused on this woman, and how she used her own personal items to overall make sure the work was done.

As soon as she came back to her desk, I said “I am so sorry if I snapped at you, or if  I was rude.  I didn’t mean to be.” She looked up at me and said, “You weren’t at all.  And even if you had been, it would be okay.” It was an act of kindness that I wasn’t expecting, and it helped me breathe.

I went back to stand and wait for my turn.  I ran to the washroom to cry, away from the eyes of others as needed.  My husband and toddler came back almost an hour later, just in time for my name being called.

We went into the room, I explained the full story to the ultrasound technician and she began taking measurements.

THE STORM

I was 18 weeks and 5 days, but he measured a week behind.  When I saw her look for the heartbeat, the screen filled with static.  There was nothing.  The pit in my stomach grew deeper and my Son looked at me on the table and said “Mommy Okay.”  I nodded, and said yes, I was okay.

Dr Luskey then came into the room and confirmed there was no heartbeat.  They got papers organized and I had to go back to my Doctor.  As soon as she saw me in the waiting room, her arms embraced me once again.

We spoke about starting the process of genetic testing in case we wanted to try again in the future.  I had said after the last experience, that I would not be able to handle another loss. This was going to be our last try.  However, maybe there is an underlying issue that would help Liam and his family later on, if he chooses to have one.  That alone is guiding us to make sure the recommended tests are done.

I was then admitted, and was put in the room I would give birth to my Son in. It was in the postpartum unit of the hospital, and I constantly heard newborns cry.  It made me hurt and feel happy all at the same time.  A nurse and social worker understood me more than I understood myself at this point.

I will say now, that I have the names of everyone who took care of me listed in my phone.  I made notes of their names and will be making a point of saying thank you to them.  Everyone was so kind and gentle, and I can’t say thank you to them enough.  Truly.  No words are good enough.

I knew it could be a long process, so I told my husband to go home with our toddler.  Later on I texted him, saying my Mom would be able to watch our Son if he wanted to be here.  I explained he could hold our baby, say goodbye, and say whatever he needed to.  If that would help him eventually heal, I didn’t want him to miss that chance.  He declined, saying it would make it too real for him.  I understood.  I wasn’t even having contractions yet, and I didn’t know how I was going to say goodbye.

17 vials of blood, an IV, tablets inserted, and several interactions with nurses, doctors and an amazing social worker later, I just had to wait.

Alexis, the social worker, cried with me.  She cried.  I told her how nice it was and how much it meant to me that she showed her emotions.  That I was sorry and I didn’t mean to put a black cloud over her, but that I didn’t know how she did this job, and her emotions were monumental for me.

I had been studying to be a social worker in college, and I thought that it wouldn’t work since I was so emotional myself.  How can I help others when I would cry with them?  Alexis showed me how it was possible.  It is brilliant that she is so open and her natural reactions help whoever she is working with.  She is one of the women I will now never forget.  She is a huge page of this chapter of my life, and I hope everyone strives to be as caring as she is.

We had not been sent information about the burial of our last tiny one.  I had been waiting months to hear about the ceremony and Alexis told me it had already happened in May.  I am not upset, I do not hold a grudge at all- I understand.  The circumstances probably made it all get lost in the daily shuffle and I do not need a ceremony in order to remember the life that was.  I remember and relive the experience every single day.

Alexis, however was embarrassed and felt horrible that we were never notified about anything.  She took the time to speak to the pathology unit and confirmed that our baby is buried and has a resting spot.  Alexis also told me that our Rainbow would be buried next to his sibling.  I cried more than ever before.

I found comfort in knowing they will be together.

MY PARENTS

I had been speaking to my Mom all day and she was there for me.

She didn’t want me to be alone during this time.  While I knew that I needed to be in my own bubble to mentally handle it all, staying in contact with her all day helped me.   She is remarkable.

There were other plans in place that could not be changed prior to this occurring, and so my parents could not stay with me.  I hope if they read this, (like I know they will), that they know to never, ever, feel guilty or upset that they could not stay.  They wanted to try to rearrange plans, but I told them not to.  It means more than words can express that they were there at all.

They had surprised me.  I had been able to tell which nurse was coming in my room with every knock on the door.  Then, there was a familiar tap on the door, but I knew it wasn’t a nurse.  In the reflection of the windows,  I saw my Mom.  There she was.  I heard her tearing up before I even saw her.  I slowly said “Mommy?”,  and then she gave me one of the most important hugs of my life.

My Mom and Dad stayed with me as the contractions started to get painful.  I was swaying back and forth, trying to find a way to lessen the pain.  We would talk about the burial, about the baby, and about normal day to day things.  As my Mom left the room, she hugged me and rubbed my stomach.  She was saying goodbye to her grandchild.  It meant so much to me, and I know it wasn’t easy for her or my Dad.  Not only were they seeing their daughter go through something they had no control over, but they were saying goodbye too.  During times like these, you may feel so alone, but you’re not.  You’re not the only one feeling the pain.

I LAUGHED A FEW TIMES.

It is so hard to be going through something so terrible and still be able to laugh at something.  It’s okay.  Please, let yourself laugh.

You may not feel like you deserve to laugh, but you do.  My parents made me laugh, and then I tried to make the nurses laugh later on.  Yes, laughing at a time like this feels impossible.  I thought I would never laugh again.  Your body and mind will do amazing things to at least try to help you cope.

MY MOM BROUGHT ME A TOOTHBRUSH.

The dinner at the hospital that night was meatloaf, and I saw it as a sign that I needed to eat. I refused food all day, but Alexis brought me a plate full of fresh fruit and a homemade pecan bread. “It’s NOT hospital food” the nurses said.  I laughed and I tried to eat.

Meatloaf is a dear recipe to me. It was one of the first things I cooked, and it makes me think about my Mom and Grandmother. However, eating it made me want a toothbrush and I was not prepared.  My Mom brought me one along with hair bands, a facecloth, toothpaste, soap… tiny things that mean so much to me now.  She also brought her care blanket.  She got through breast cancer comforted by this blanket, and there I was with it at my feet.  It was an honor.  In the hours following, I grasped onto it tightly.  I thought of my Mom, my Dad and I was comforted.

I used the facecloth to wipe the day and tears from my face.  It’s not that I disrespected the day, but I knew that just that simple facecloth would help me get through the rest of the night.

It would be a long night…

OUR RAINBOW

From around 8 PM until the birth at 2:23 AM, the contractions were quite painful. By 7 PM, I was on my second dose of the tablets that were meant to induce labor.  I had struggled with allowing myself to get morphine.  Since I had gone through losing a baby a few months ago with no medication, I thought I could do it again.  I wanted to do it again, except this time it was different.

This time, I honestly thought that I deserved to feel the pain.  Women give birth all the time without medication, and it was apparently my body that didn’t let him survive.  It was my fault.  I deserved anything that came my way.  I could do it for him.  However, my parents helped me realize that I was going through enough emotional pain.  I hadn’t slept, and I knew I would not sleep until after he was born.  I needed to conserve whatever energy I had left so I asked for the morphine.

The pain was at an 8 and the morphine barely gave me relief, so the lowest it got was a 5.  The nurse seemed concerned that I wasn’t getting much relief, so I tried to wait as long as I could before asking for more morphine.

With every single contraction I had, I would say “It’s okay.  You’re not hurting Mommy.  This has to be done so I can hold you.  I’m okay.  This is not your fault.  I’m here for you.  I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

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My Mom had brought photos of Liam, and of other family members.  As contractions made me squirm in pain, I held the bar tightly and looked at the photo of Liam.  I had to do this.  I had to be okay for him.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and a rainbow song that was important to my Mother and I ever since I was in Grade One was on repeat in my head.  For three hours straight I sang to him.  I told him about his family and our friends.  I can only hope that he knows how much he was – and always will- be loved.

Two nurse changes, two doctor introductions, and two requests for ice chips later, I felt the pain that I knew was the sign that I’d be able to hold my baby soon.  My nurse had just left the room, because I had “greedily asked for another cup of ice”.  I had been unable to drink anything since 6 PM, and I was in need of something to help my dry throat.  Almost as soon as she exited the room, I felt my body change.  It was time to push.  It was time to meet my Son.

I pressed the call button, and almost screamed “I feel the need to push, URGENTLY”.  I needed to make sure he was safe and taken care of right away.  My nurse came in and at that point I was in an upright fetal position.  I kept saying that it felt like a waterfall should be coming, but it was blocked.  My nurses seemed to not believe me, since there was no liquid or blood coming out yet.

I told them I may throw up.  They provided me with a container to use, and I was transported back to my memories of giving birth to Liam.  It had all happened so fast with him.  I had wanted to meet him for so long.  Now, I wanted to meet this little one and tell him that it was okay.  The thought of him being away from me killed me.  I had waited for him, our rainbow, and I wanted to meet him so badly, but…

NOT LIKE THIS.

It wasn’t time.  He, we, I… we all needed more time.

I felt a gush and my nurse said “There’s the waterfall.”  I knew my body and I knew it was coming.  I knew he would be there soon.

THERE HE WAS.

I cried and wanted to scream.  I asked to know what time it was, and I almost asked if he was okay.

At 2:23 AM, I met a beautiful boy.

It was the first time I heard that we were having a little boy.

While they cleaned him up, they tried to deliver the placenta.  Little did I know that they would monitor me for the next six hours so I could deliver it.  Part of it, was a cord hanging from me that was meant to be my connection to our Son.  A life giving cord… that had a knot in it.

It was a true knot that limited the oxygen supply to our Son.  A knot that may have been there since the beginning, or maybe it formed as he was being active and was jumping around in the womb.  I know the world can be cruel.  I am not naive.  It simply doesn’t make sense to me that someone so tiny, so innocent, would die due to doing something good.  He was active, he was moving around and it may have caused a knot.  We are still waiting for the pathology reports, but for now, that is what they gave us as a cause of death, and honestly, I’m mad.  It makes me sick.

HE DESERVES TO BE HELD.

They asked if I was ready to hold him and if I was prepared for how he would look.  We were almost halfway into the pregnancy, so I knew that he wouldn’t look like most people would expect.  I was ready, and I needed him in my arms.

There he was, with his ten tiny toes and ten tiny fingers.  I looked at the slight smirk that his lips formed.  I looked at the knot in his umbilical cord.  The knot was so clear, yet it was so small.  I was worried that he was cold, so I bundled him up in his blanket.  He needed to be as safe and as comfortable as possible.   I felt like I couldn’t do anything, and it was too little too late.  I didn’t know how to let him go, but I’m so glad he was being looked after by people who were so caring.

Before I could let him go, I took photos. Yes, he will always be remembered without them, but I look at those photos every single night now.  I miss him in my now empty body, I miss him growing.. I miss him.

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RAINBOWS ARE EVERYWHERE…

I didn’t sleep at all that night.  It felt like I was already in a nightmare, so closing my eyes made it seem like when they opened, everything else would fade away.  Maybe I would wake up and I would be back to being anxious for my doctor’s appointment.  That wouldn’t happen and I knew it.  I simply couldn’t sleep.

I closed my eyes between the 30 minute intervals of the nurses checking on me.  The entire staff was amazing.  They will forever be in my heart for making a terrible situation go as smoothly as possible.  I told each and every one of them that their kindness made all the difference.  I hope everyone truly knows how much their sensitivity helped me during that time.

Chantal, Francine, Marie-Pier, Sarah, Jenn, Argie, Alexis, and to everyone else I didn’t get to meet in person- thank you so much.  “It takes a village” never meant more to me than it does now.

I spent the last few days with Liam at my Mom and Dad’s to get a bit of help.  I began to answer work e-mails and felt guilty for doing so.  It’s a whole new experience now.  I need to stay busy to prevent having a breakdown.  I am doing my best for Liam and my family.

During my visit at my parents’ home, Liam and my Mom watered the flowers.  A rainbow appeared right over where my Son was standing.  It was a sign.  I had also been nurturing and growing Morning Glories all Summer.  We had several leaves, but nothing more.  When I came home, the majority of the plant was dead, except for one flower that bloomed. Rainbows have been important to me for several different reasons over the years, but it feels like I am getting more signs than ever before.  The smallest things mean so much.

LIFE CONTINUES

It may be hard to believe (since this post was so long), but I left many details out.  There are many minuscule things that will forever be ingrained in my mind.  If anyone ever wants to speak about their experiences, please do not hesitate to contact me. Do you have questions?  Ask away.  If you have information about true knot losses, please speak to me.  I am here.

I went home thinking that 50 years had passed, but once I arrived home, nothing else was different.  Everyone knows that they can’t heal you magically with their words.  They try, and it means so much.  Others try in their own way and it seems insensitive.  No.  I do not think this was “God’s Plan.”  No.  This was not meant to happen so we could “try for a girl”.

I understand that you don’t know what to say, but your sad eyes say enough.  I appreciate you trying.  Words aren’t needed.

If you read this far, thank you for reading.  You make it seem like my Son will not be forgotten by others and it means so much to me.  We received so many kind thoughts and well wishes during this time and I am beyond thankful.  Thank you so much for your understanding.

Little boy, I’ll see you soon, somewhere over the rainbows.  Hug your sibling tight for me until I can hold you both.

 

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