Do Not Pass Go

Fifty-two weeks ago, on a Friday night after a full day of work, I was  laying down with my 3 year old daughter. I turned to my husband and said “I don’t think the baby has been moving much today.” It was my 37th birthday and I was 37 weeks pregnant. I texted my midwife. Here’s our conversation:

April 21, 2017 at 7:07 PM:

Me: Today I didn’t feel much movement from the baby

7:39 PM:

Laura: Are you concerned?

Me: Not sure, it’s a bit unusual to not feel some activity after I eat dinner but I think I’m feeling light movement just not strong obvious moving.

Laura: Babies have less room to move as they get bigger. It’s not uncommon for there to be a gradual decrease in the strength of their movements.

(Um, NO).

Try lying on your left side and see if you get some movement

WRONG ANSWER.

I’ll admit I had no idea that my baby could die. In retrospect, that sounds so stupid, so naive. How did I think I was immune to this tragedy? I had never had a pregnancy loss, already delivered a full-term healthy child, my blood pressure was perfect, as were my blood sugars. I didn’t drink, smoke, or do any illicit drugs. Nobody had ever mentioned the possibility of stillbirth to me.

If only I had known. If any pregnant woman ever has an inkling of a doubt, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to the hospital.

Of course it’s possible, that had I gone to the hospital, an ultrasound could have deemed my baby fine and I would have been sent home. But what if something was off? What if the decision was made to give me a c-section that night? I would be holding my youngest child right now, planning a first birthday party.

Why risk it?

I will regret, for every second of my life, that I didn’t follow my instincts. I will blame myself, of course, regardless of what others say.

The thing is, nobody ever mentioned kick counting to me. Nobody ever told me to monitor my baby’s movements. How can this be? There’s an entire organization dedicated to kick counting instruction.

There are even apps for kick counting.

One part of me feels I should have known better, like it’s a “duh” concept. Another part of me blames my midwife. The letters after her name, CPM, stands for Certified Professional Midwife. And yet she acted unprofessionally multiple times. She let me down. She spoke with me in-depth about baby-wearing and eating dates to induce labor but somehow she left out the importance of kick-counting?

I just can’t.

I have to live with this for the rest of my life. My only consolation is that she does too. Three months after I delivered my dead daughter, she delivered a  living son. I hope that every time she looks at him she remembers the terrible advice she gave me that cost my daughter’s life.

(Yes,  I am still stuck in the ‘anger stage’).

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Marking Time

Monday January 8, 2018  is an odd sort of coincidental date of triggering thoughts and feelings. First, it is a Monday, marking 35 weeks since Corva was delivered. Second, this 8th of January marks 8 months since the birth of my youngest daughter.

Although Corva was born on her due date, technically she was inside me for 38 weeks. This means that in three weeks, on Monday January 29 (or, likely, Saturday January 27th), Corva will have been dead for as long as she was alive

This weekend was particularly difficult for me. With the days lining up precisely as they did in May 2017, I was reminded on Friday January 5th that Friday May 5th was my last day of work. And on Saturday January 6th I remembered that on Saturday May 6th I insisted that my husband go to urgent care after days of illness and severe abdominal pain. On Sunday January 7th I remembered that on Sunday May 7th I picked my husband up from the hospital after his night spent in observation,  conscious of the fact that the very next day was my due date, oblivious to the fact that my daughter had likely already passed away. Last night I recalled that 8 months ago, I fell asleep cuddling with my then-3-year old only to awaken in the night with labor pains. I wasn’t concerned only excited. Was she moving? I don’t recall, though now I can say, likely not; testing indicates Corva likely passed a couple days prior to birth.

This is how I mark time now. By Mondays and 8ths. And I wonder if it will always be this way.



Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you and where you’d gone
And let the world spin madly on.


 

CYG Day 25: Indestructible Heart

I once had a job, not long ago, working directly with pregnant and postpartum moms, and their children. Occasionally, my coworker, who frequently combed the obituaries, would bring in to work a tattered clipping for a baby or small child. “One of ours,” she’d say. My coworkers and I would huddle in our meeting space trying to fathom what could have happened. Sometimes, I could identify what likely happened: “Oh, that baby was a 24 weeker,” or “heart defect.” (I followed all the high risk cases). Occasionally, a staff member would offer up that the mother had risk factors for SIDS. Or there had been a house fire or car accident.  Other times we just didn’t have a clue.

I would think (and sometimes say aloud), If my child died, I would die too,* or be admitted to a mental hospital.

But when my child’s heart stopped, mine kept on beating, though the physical ache was real. Checking in to a mental hospital would only separate me from my husband and living daughter; it wouldn’t bring back my baby.

Worldwide, across cultures, people endure unfathomable tragedies. They survive, and they build meaningful and joyful lives despite trauma.  This is resilience. In Option B Sandberg and Grant discuss the three P’s (coined by Martin Sligman) which prevent someone from reclaiming their life after trauma.

Personalization: Self-blame. It’s my fault that my baby died. If only I had paid closer attention to her movements. If only I had sought more ultrasounds.

Pervasiveness: When tragedy infiltrates into every aspect of our life. I failed to keep my baby alive, therefore I’m not a good mom to my living child. I’m not a good wife. I’m not a good employee. I’m not a good friend.

Permanence: Feeling as though the severity of the trauma will never end. I am never going to feel better. For the rest of my living days, I will always be the mother of a dead baby and there is nothing I can do to change that fact.

I am still working on the three Ps. I’m not certain that my heart is truly indestructible. It feels quite shattered, actually.

*When I say I thought I would die, I’m not referring to suicide. I’m referring to the belief that I would stop existing if my child died. If you are contemplating suicide, please know that there is help available. For countries outside the United States, click here.


What do you think about the three P’s? Have you built resilience? Is your heart indestructible?

Fetal Heart Rate: Not Detected

I killed my baby. Not directly, not intentionally, but my inactions caused her death. Apparently I have left the “Anger” stage (for now) and have delved right into the “Bargaining” stage.

My first inclination that something wasn’t right was on my 37th birthday. I was 37 weeks and 4 days. It was a Friday night.  My husband and I were laying on the futon mattress on the floor in our daughter’s room. We were trying to get her to lay down but she was too busy playing. “I’m not feeling the baby move much,” I remarked to my husband. I had a busy day at work and hadn’t been paying close attention to whether or not she had been moving. He reassured me that the baby was fine, that there probably just wasn’t much room in there. I got up to get some cold water and lay on my left side. Was that movement? I texted my midwife. (You can read more about my midwife here). She wrote back “Babies have less room to move as they get bigger. It is not uncommon for there to be gradual decrease in the strength of their movements. But it shouldn’t be abrupt and the frequency should not decrease…If there is a noticeable decrease in movement, you may want to go in for an ultrasound to check things out. You could wait until tomorrow or you could go in tonight depending on how concerned you are. What does your gut say?”

My gut said we should go in–better to be safe than sorry. But that’s not what I did. I didn’t go in for an ultrasound. I wanted to believe that my baby was moving, that she was okay. My husband kept saying “I’m sure she’s fine.” And I wanted to believe him.

My second inclination came four days later.  My midwife came over for a prenatal appointment and I distinctly remember her moving the Doppler around on my belly, finding a heartbeat and, pausing, she said “I guess that’s her heartbeat?” But was it my baby’s heartbeat or was it mine?

One week later, my husband became sick. Very sick. He stayed home from work for two days, and that says a lot, he doesn’t miss work. I was concerned as he had a few of these episodes prior and I thought perhaps it was his gallbladder or appendix. On Saturday morning I insisted that we have things checked out. I’ll spare you the details, only to say that he was admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and is presently fine. This is only important to mention because while I was fretting about my husband and caring for my living child, my baby was dying inside my body.

I requested my records from my midwife and they arrived in the mail today. There it is, in her scratchy printing (because she still hand writes her charts even though everyone else in the world is using i-pads and smartphones):

5/8/17

Fetal Heart Rate: Not detected.

Baby suspected dead at 9:30 am. Baby confirmed dead by ultrasound around 11 am

Apparently normal, healthy baby had died at least two days prior. Mother thought she was still feeling the baby move. Absent FHT [fetal heart tones] at normal prenatal visit on 5/8/17 was the first indication of fetal demise.

Stillborn–known dead

 

If only I had….

How have you managed any guilt you feel from your grieving experience?